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updated: 3/2/2011 12:03 AM

Sleepy Hollow committee agrees to cull 20 deer

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A Sleepy Hollow committee Tuesday night unanimously made a "responsible but difficult decision" that allows the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to cull up to 20 deer on rural property.

The matter now goes before the entire Sleepy Hollow board, which is due to meet Monday.

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The IDNR is trying to kill 75 deer within a 25-square-mile area of the village and test them for chronic wasting disease, a fatal ailment that forms lesions in the brains of affected deer, disrupting their primary brain functions. Authorities say there are no known human cases.

Scientists have discovered the disease locally among two deer inside the targeted area and are culling deer to determine where it originated and how it traveled here, and with hopes of slowing its spread.

Regional Wildlife Biologist Dan Ludwig says the disease has touched 17 states and two Canadian provinces. He acknowledged there is no way to stop the disease and says a vaccine is five to 10 years away.

If the board approves the proposal, a single sharpshooter would operate in the rural territory north of Jelke's Bird Sanctuary, south of the village hall and east of Sleepy Hollow Road.

As part of the program, the sharpshooter aims for the deer's shoulder. The bullet shuts down the animal's central nervous system, killing it in about a minute.

Scientists estimate 482 deer live within the targeted 25-square-mile area, and the state agency has so far received approval to sample 40 deer in Kane County.

Last week, the Kane County Forest Preserve District agreed to 20 deer. And this week, culling activity began at Salamander Springs in Dundee Township, where researchers are aiming for another 20 deer.

Tuesday, Sleepy Hollow's environmental committee gave the IDNR preliminary approval to carry out its plan, but the decision didn't come without debate.

Committee member Carol Grom said she favored letting nature take its course, as the deer population in her opinion is already too high.

"If we lost 40 percent of our deer, wouldn't that be pretty much a good thing?" Grom asked, referencing Ludwig's data that said Wyoming lost that much deer for doing nothing to control the disease.

Elgin resident Scott Harrell suggested that he and other hunters kill the deer themselves to save the state money.

Ludwig did not have figures Tuesday night to show how much the state spends on culling. But he did say four samples taken in the 25-square mile area came from hunters.

The committee didn't condone open hunting in public, so that idea went nowhere.

If the Sleepy Hollow board approves IDNR's request, culling could begin within the next two weeks. It would end March 31.

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