Twenty white-tailed deer will be shot dead as part of a culling program the Dundee Township Board approved Thursday night for an area near the Binnie Forest Preserve in Carpentersville.
Two deer recently tested positive for the deadly chronic wasting disease near the forest preserve. The contagious neurological disease, which kills deer and elk, is 100 percent fatal and has eliminated up to 40 percent of the deer population in states that haven't addressed the situation.
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The disease forms lesions in the brains of affected animals, but there are no known human cases. Symptoms include a lowered head, excessive saliva and an emaciated body. Authorities have discovered it in nine Illinois counties.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is running an experiment to determine where the disease came from and how it migrated here, and plans on killing 75 deer within a 25-square-foot radius of the forest preserve.
The group also hopes the shootings prevent the disease from spreading.
IDNR is also organizing sharpshooters to kill the deer. Later, its biologists will test the brain and a pair of lymph nodes for the presences of the disease.
"Unfortunately, the only way to get them is through a dead animal," Regional Wildlife Biologist Dan Ludwig said.
Twenty of those 75 deer will come from Salamander Springs near the Binnie Forest Preserve -- right now, 29 deer live there. IDNR now needs permission from the Kane County Forest Preserve and individual landowners to cull the remaining 55 deer.
The sample size would give the state an idea of how the disease has penetrated the area surrounding the forest preserve -- 482 deer currently live within the targeted section.
IDNR hopes to run the experiment for five years, but must seek approval each year before continuing with shootings. The agency won unanimous approval from the Dundee Township Board to conduct its experiment for the first year.
But not everyone agreed deer should die in the name of science.
Bellita Jackson of Carpentersville called the subject an emotional issue and asked the board to establish a committee to research the effectiveness of culling before making a final decision.
"People care about the deer," she said. "I get my moment of Zen when I go out and for a walk and I see the deer."
The shootings will begin either late next week or the following week and occur between Monday and Thursday, once or twice a week. They are expected to end March 31 and IDNR will notify surrounding homeowners a week before shots are fired.
A single sharpshooter will primarily target older deer and fire from a 6-foot-tall tripod pointed in the direction of vegetation.
A single shot in the deer's shoulder destroys its central nervous system and kills the animal in about a minute, Ludwig said.