Residents split on Kane County deer overpopulation issue
By Erin Sauder For The Courier-News August 14, 2012 10:30AM
A small white-tailed deer keeps a watchful eye along Sleepy Hollow Road in Sleepy Hollow. March 21, 2012 | Michael Smart~Sun-Times Media
Updated: September 16, 2012 6:14AM
GIBLERTS — Residents attending a public forum this week appeared to be split down the middle when it comes to whether deer overpopulation is a problem in the Forest Preserve District of Kane County.
Some said they think measures such as hunting and culling are necessary, while others said deer sightings in the area are rare.
Many people descended on the lodge at Camp Tomo Chi-Chi Knolls in Gilberts Monday night to offer their opinions on the issue during the forum. Forest preserve officials asked those in attendance to fill out and submit their comments on a form.
“My constituents are telling me there’s no deer here so we don’t need sharpshooting or hunting,” Kane County board member T.R. Smith, R-Hampshire, said. “I’m a representative of the people. And if the people are against something, then I’m against it.”
County board members also serve as forest preserve district commissioners.
Monday’s meeting was an open-house format, with information presented on boards, via handouts and electronically. Forest preserve district staff were on hand to answer questions.
Rutland Township resident Katherine Schultz said in the past she would often see many deer roaming her neighborhood.
“Last summer I only saw two deer, and this summer none,” she said. “You can’t tell me the forest preserves are being overrun with deer.”
But Sleepy Hollow resident Steve Flexman said he has seen firsthand the decimation of native plants in the forest preserves by the deer, which destroys the habitat and food sources of other species.
“There are no flowering plants anymore. Although deer are an important part of the ecosystem, they’re just one part,” he said. “If the district’s research shows (the deer) have to be controlled to help everything else then they need to do it. The need for it seems so obvious.”
Dundee Township resident Rosalie Johnson agrees there are too many deer in the area.
“Something has to be done,” she said. “It’s not humane to let them overpopulate and destroy their own food sources. It’s for their own safety and health.”
Drew Ullberg, director of natural resources for the district, said officials have been compiling data on the issue for five years.
“This is just one part of a big puzzle,” he said.
Some information provided by the district at Monday’s forum included deer impacts on human safety and property, and diseases contracted by deer.
Officials said between 1994 and 2008, the most recent statistics available, Kane County averaged 510 deer-vehicle collisions a year.
As far as Chronic Wasting Disease, a 100 percent fatal disease of the nervous system that affects deer and elk, 11 deer have tested positive for it in Kane County. Officials said high deer populations are more conducive to the transmission and spread of the disease.
Officials said there is evidence of ecological impacts in some of Kane County’s natural areas.
Ullberg said forest preserve official hopes to go before a Kane County Board committee meeting with feedback in the next few weeks to help determine the next step in the process.
But Carpentersville community activist Billita Jacobsen said no next step needs to be taken.
“This is barbaric,” she said of the methods being proposed. “I don’t understand this kill mentality toward deer. They’re gentle animals that don’t bother anybody.”
A second hearing is scheduled for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Sugar Grove Public Library.
For more information on the issue, visit www.kaneforest.com.