River Forest pursues deer sharpshooter program

Residents have registered at least 60 deer-related complaints so far

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By Nona Tepper

River Forest may bring a team of sharpshooters to town, with the aim of reducing the growing number of deer in the village.  

Jonathan Pape, assistant to the village administrator, said River Forest has received at least 60 complaints this year about deer destruction of property, the largest number in recent years.  

"People who have lived here a long time, they're used to seeing one deer in their backyard. Now they wake up on a Sunday morning and there's 12," he said. 

In addition to the quantity and frequency of deer sightings becoming "a real concern," Pape said residents have also complained about landscaping damage, tick-borne diseases, and deer droppings in their yards. 

"Just the fact that there's flooding in the county property, and more resources in the community for them to feed on, and a lack of predators, things like that are drawing out the population," Pape said. 

The village hopes to partner with the Forest Preserves of Cook County in an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) to approve the sharpshooter program, which would allow deer hunters to descend upon the village no earlier than Dec. 1. Officials estimated the program will cost $1,000, although Pape said he was uncertain about the final cost. The sharpshooting would be limited to forest preserve land. 

A spokeswoman for the Forest Preserves of Cook County said it was still working to determine a final cost for expanding its program to three properties in River Forest, and "one of the factors the forest preserves is considering is the level of positive impact the program may have on local Forest Preserves of Cook County properties." 

Timothy Preuss, urban deer project manager at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR), said the forest preserve conducts the program every year, but he has not yet received an application from the forest preserve to remove deer in River Forest.

"There's not much in the way of natural controls," Preuss said. "We don't have predators; vehicle accidents are the primary form of mortality in urban areas; there's no hunting to reduce the population numbers. Deer are obviously going to continue to reproduce and grow over time."

As part of the forest preserve's sharpshooter program, representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture will go through River Forest to "manage the numbers on some of their sites where they have a really high-quantity habitat, where they start to see significant damage to plant communities on their sites," Preuss said. River Forest has never been included in this program before, he noted. 

In some cases, diseases help reduce the deer population in the state. 

One ailment is Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), a viral disease transmitted by gnats, which frequently occurs during hot, dry summers. Preuss said outbreaks commonly occur in southern Illinois — although "it's seen periodically in northern Illinois" — and River Forest has not had any issues with that so far this year, although outbreaks usually strike in warmer months like August or September.

"When those outbreaks happen you may hear about deer found dead in water or in areas adjacent to water," Preuss said. 

The other is chronic wasting disease, which is transmitted from deer to deer and has greater potential to impact deer population. Preuss said no cases have ever been identified in Cook County. 

While lack of disease may not be driving up the deer population in River Forest, Preuss said he has been receiving more complaints from residents. 

"They've been starting to see more deer, especially on the western edge of their village," he said. 

Because River Forest is along the Desplaines River, which experienced high water levels in the spring, Preuss said deer could have been pushed out of their natural habitat and forced to move closer to the suburbs. 

"Deer in these areas really don't have large home ranges; they typically reside in less than two-tenths of a square mile," Preuss said. "So since there is no control of the deer population in River Forest or in adjacent areas, the population may just be growing through reproduction." 

CONTACT: ntepper@wjinc.com 

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Robert Zeh  

Posted: August 18th, 2019 5:32 PM

If you listen to the village presentation on deer, at https://vrf.us/events/event/1590, at around 47 minutes Mr. Preuss from IDNR answered most of the questions that have come up about alternatives to shooting the deer. They won't move the deer because of concerns around chronic wasting disease, although CWD has not been found in Cook County. Also, in some of the early attempts at moving deer 50% of them died from the stress.. Surgical sterlization is not permitted in Illinois because it hasn't been shown to be effective in free roaming populations. Immuno contraceptions require finding 80% of the female deer, and in Illinois it can only be used in an experimental research sense. River Forest would have to do it under a research permit.

Karina Reyes  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 1:13 PM

Arthur, I am on your side. There has got to be another way. I like Antoinette's birth control idea. I don't like the idea of killing the dear.

Antoinette Kizak  

Posted: July 28th, 2019 1:13 PM

What about birth control? Isn't that an option?

Shelley Timm-Thompson  

Posted: July 26th, 2019 11:41 AM

I've heard from friends who attended the meeting regarding this that the butchered deer meat goes to the Chicago Food Depository. For those who are not vegetarian, remember that consumption of deer meat is better for the environment -no energy or land wasted on growing food, transportation of meat and no bovine emissions that contribute to climate change.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 24th, 2019 3:35 PM

The deer know the day of the week is Sunday, "because they "herd" the church bells ring.

Dan Hanna from Brookfield  

Posted: July 24th, 2019 3:05 AM

How do the deer know that it's Sunday?

Bridget Doherty from Riverside  

Posted: July 23rd, 2019 1:58 PM

What a lazy, disgusting "solution". We choose to live in this area of the suburbs that allow us to enjoy, and thus co-exist with, nature. Move to the city. There has to be a humane option - catch and move elsewhere.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 22nd, 2019 11:53 AM

All we need is for one deer to run out into traffic and get struck by a car injuring a child passenger in the car and this discussion will end with a bang. Does everyone understand the Wisconsin Automobile Drivers Deer Theory? That is if a deer crosses the road safely in front of your auto, there is good chance and second deer will soon follow the same path in front of your moving auto. Beware the second deer.

Ray Simpson  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 3:37 PM

Several years ago we had a young deer come down Grove Ave and look into the windows of Lincoln School. I called animal control and they said the policy was to leave it alone because the risk of breaking a leg was great and that would require putting the animal down. I wonder if Mr Poletti had a family of skunks under his porch, if he would be as soft hearted?

Bruce Kline  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 2:15 PM

Robert. It's called the Bambi syndrome. And Mr. Poletti is so infected. He needs a remedy. That remedy is called reality.

Robert Zeh  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 2:13 PM

@Jason, at the Village presentation the topic of moving the deer came up. It isn't allowed because it spreads disease, and they're especially worried about chronic wasting disease. They also said that in some earlier attempts to move deer, 50% of them died from the shock.

Robert Zeh  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 1:57 PM

The deer are pests; if they've eaten through your garden, or stripped the bark off your trees you know why they're pests. We aren't living in Yellowstone, and Thatcher Woods is as far from a natural ecosystem as my driveway. Culling them is no worse than culling rats.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 1:38 PM

@Arthur, I appreciate your passion here but I don't think any of your options are realistic. First off I assume you are a vegetarian as it would make little sense to complain about hunting some deer (I am sure they won't waste the meat) while also buying meat at the grocery store. Making it even easier for the deer to live would cause their numbers to grow even faster. There are no predators around so nothing will stop this problem from getting worse and worse. It might be realistic to relocate the deer but I don't know how easy that is. Keeping them all alive in the area and protected just isn't a realistic option like it or not.

Arthur Poletti  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 6:57 AM

PROTECT AND CARE FOR EVERY DEER--NEVER HARM THEM!! How much money would it take to construct fencing for areas that could be fenced and a regular feeding program which would provide a year round weather proof way of providing a safe haven for the precious lives of every deer?  I hope there are enough people living in River Forest that prefer a plan to save the deer rather then needlessly kill them because there is no real management plan to care for them. There should be a regular feeding program for the deer in Thatcher Woods as well as a fenced area that could be funded primarily by donations from residence of River Forest and hopefully Oak Park or from anyone else that cares to make a donation. Well fed deer will stay where the food is!!I hope many of the people living in River Forest and Oak Park as well as anyone else that is opposed to killing the precious deer would be willing to make donations to help pay for fencing and food to keep them in a safe haven. Promote kindness and life not needless cruelty and death --People that do not want the deer protected and fed and think it is okay to needlessly kill the deer should move out of River Forest. P.S -- I WILL DONATE $1000.00 TO BEGIN THE FUND RAISER when a definite plan is created to feed and save the deer and a promise that no deer will ever be hunted.

Arthur Poletti  

Posted: July 21st, 2019 5:14 AM

"Many are the lovely flowers of worship offered to the Guru, but none lovelier than non killing. Respect for life is the highest worship, the bright lamp, the sweet garland, and unwavering devotion. What do you really possess, and what have you gained? What pearls have you brought up from the depths of the sea? On the day of your death, bodily bodily senses will vanish. Do you have the spiritual light to accompany your heart? When dust fills your eyes in the grave, will your grave shine bright? Protect and save the deer. Their lives mean more than some dead flowers!!

Ray Simpson  

Posted: July 20th, 2019 5:49 PM

@Arthur Poletti - Culling the herd is a humane way to manage the number of deer in a given area. Without this management a large number of deer would starve to death. Their rotting carcasses would pose health and environmental issues we cannot cope with. Or perhaps import a pack of natural predators like wolves or perhaps a mountain lion or two.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 20th, 2019 1:24 PM

@ Arthur Poletti: How do you fence the Des Plaines River to keep the deer in?

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 20th, 2019 1:18 PM

@ Arthur Poletti: How would you protect the deer from being hunted by cougars?

Arthur Poletti  

Posted: July 20th, 2019 8:34 AM

only cruel heartless government officials would order deer to be killed instead of constructing a fence around the portion of thatcher woods that would keep them isolated and safe which should have been done years ago. I am sure there are blood thirsty deer hunters that would love to kill the deer --Ask for donations from residents to pay for a fence WHO IN THEIR RIGHT MIND WOULD ORDER SHARPSHOOTERS TO KILL THE DEER.-- TIME TO MOVE OUT OF RIVER FOREST AND LET THE KILLERS MOVE IN -OR REPLACE OFFICIALS THAT THINK MURDERING THE DEER IS OKAY WITH ANIMAL ACTIVISTS THAT WOULD NEVER ALLOW DEER TO BE HUNTED--NEVER

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 18th, 2019 5:04 PM

@ Tommy Big Mac: Sharpshooters not needed for pigeons. A Pair of Falcons to dine on squab is all you need.

Leslyn Lloyd Snow from River Forest Il  

Posted: July 18th, 2019 1:38 PM

I think it is wrong, the woods are flooded because we have had so much rain, where can they go!

Brian Sharpe  

Posted: July 18th, 2019 12:17 PM

The venison could go to the Greater Chicago Food Depository, to be distributed to local food pantries. But of course the animals would have to be tested for various diseases that might contaminate the meat. Perhaps better to donate to Brookfield Zoo for the predator exhibits?

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 9:04 PM

Can we please have some sharpshooters work on the pigeons living beneath the Marion Street L bridge please. They poop all over the sidewalks so people walk through it and drag that home.

Khandrola Dechen from OP  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 7:14 PM

Why not catch and release downstate? We can catch a gator but not deer?

Sallie Castillo from River Forest  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 6:33 PM

I can not believe there is not another way of the large number of deer besides kill them. Is this the answer to everything, destroy? Are you going to kill a fawns mother, or the mother and the baby? What is wrong with birth control for the animals? Or building fences off of Thatcher so that the deer can not wander into the million dollar yards of the rich families of River Forest. How inhumane we are to consider killing these beautiful animals rather than attempt another sort of solution.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 2:42 PM

I just might have this wrong. Deer hunters tell me that white tail, if I recall correctly, were introduced to our area by I think the government for hunting purposes. Whats going to happen with the meat. Are we going to have access to deer meat purchases?

Mike Hanline  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 1:52 PM

"People who have lived here a long time, they're used to seeing one deer in their backyard. Now they wake up on a Sunday morning and there's 12..." How awful. Sending thoughts and prayers.

Pam Fontana  

Posted: July 17th, 2019 10:05 AM

The deer were here before you moved there. Deal with it. Some people won't be happy until all wildlife is killed off.

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