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updated: 3/4/2011 8:48 PM

Deer culling under way in Kane County despite protest of residents

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Kane County residents against the killing and testing of 20 deer for chronic wasting disease in local forest preserves again protested Friday what they felt to be a done deal. They quickly found out they were correct.

The Kane County Forest Preserve District's Executive Committee informed residents Friday there will be no full vote by all commissioners on the topic. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources wants to complete the culling by March 31. Commissioners agreed they wanted the testing done before the preserves become more active with people during the warm months. With that in mind, commissioners decided a committee vote last week was enough to green light the testing.

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"This action is not something that was generated by the forest preserve district," District President John Hoscheit said. "We did what we felt was reasonable under the circumstances."

Many area residents are opposed to any testing of the deer because even anecdotal evidence of deer in Kane County with chronic wasting disease is sparse. State officials, however, say two deer tested positive for the disease in late 2010, sparking the need for additional testing. The state initially wanted to kill 75 deer in the forest preserves. Commissioners negotiated that number down to 20 spread through four preserves. The state struck a separate agreement with Dundee Township to kill and test 20 deer near Salamander Springs. Negotiations are ongoing with Sleepy Hollow for another testing area. All three agreements could get the state pretty close to the original testing batch of 75, especially with any agreements it can make with private land owners to come on their property.

However, an admission last week by the state that they set bait traps for deer before any official agreement with the county may have permanently heightened suspicions among local residents about the lengths state officials will go to get the number of deer they believe is necessary. Residents told the district's Executive Committee Friday that they've seen evidence of private fences being cut and human tracks on private property with no permission granted. Some homeowners have now installed video cameras to monitor their property for any state intrusion. Commissioners advised residents to call the police if they believe any trespassing is occurring, but the agreed upon testing will continue.

"I know some people are opposed to any culling," Hoscheit said. "But I've also received calls from some of the most prominent naturalists in the county who have a different perspective. No one wants chronic wasting disease. We have to do a balancing act."

With that in mind, the forest preserve district will create a plan to address the wildlife population numbers in all of its preserves later this year. Commissioners are hoping for public feedback during that process.

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