The annual deer management report sparked a brief debate during the monthly meeting of the Forest Preserve District of Will County, with some members suggesting they research other methods of thinning the herd.
Board members Bob Howard, D-Beecher, and Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, wanted to look into how the state of Indiana handles the deer population, since their district borders that state.
“The geography is identical. All the woods are interconnected,” said Howard, who wanted to be sure Will County was not over culling the deer.
The forest preserve program is controlled by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, said Ralph Schulz, chief operating officer for the district.
Forest preserve staff does aerial monitoring in the region that goes beyond its borders, counting deer and showing the damage done by the animals, allowing for a threshold of 20 to 30 deer per square mile. IDNR then tells them how many deer to cull, he said.
“But we pull the trigger. We have the power of life and death over the deer,” Howard said.
Board Speaker Jim Moustis said he was “tired of talking about deer.”
“You have the ability to stop the program — then stop it. But quit bringing it up about how they should not cull deer in your area. You always make it sound like we are culling too many. Let’s quit hashing this out every few months,” he said.
Moustis’ district includes the Hickory Creek Preserves, in the Mokena/New Lenox area, where the most deer — 60 — were culled this season.
People in his area wanted the herd managed better, he said.
In 2012, Homer Glen residents voted down an advisory referendum to continue deer culling in its preserves – Messenger Woods and Messenger Marsh.
Commissioner Steve Balich, R-Homer Township, said because of that he and his fellow Commissioner Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, will continue to oppose the deer culling program.
Balich said his issue is the counting of deer, noting that the animals “meander everywhere.”
This season the forest preserve district was permitted to cull 205 deer.
According to its annual report, 200 deer were culled in the 2015-16 season, from October to February, resulting in 8,955 pounds of ground venison being donated to the Northern Illinois Food Bank.
The meat of only one deer was destroyed, due to chronic waste disease.
The district spent $29,400 on its sharpshooting staff and another $18,200 for operational costs, such as processing, ammunition and bait, for an average cost of $239 per deer, according to the report.
The DNR paid for 25 of the deer because it wanted additional deer culled in the Kankakee Sands, Braidwood Dunes and Sandridge Savanna area.
In addition to Hickory Creek, 45 deer were culled at Kankakee Sands, 30 at McKinley Woods, 20 each at Romeoville Prairie and Goodenow Grove, 15 at Lockport Prairie and 10 at Raccoon Grove.
Last year, the deer culling program was criticized by the animal rights group SHARK – Showring Animals Respect and Kindness – which secretly videotaped the sharpshooters in several preserves.
SHARK questioned the need to cull, claiming there were only a few deer at the bait sites, and claimed that deer were wounded but not killed, and dead animals were left for hours, making their meat inedible.
The forest preserve responded by improved monitoring of its program, and tracking any second shots needed to be sure the deer was dead.
In the 2014-15 season, 201 deer were culled.
- Homer Glen #Deer Culling