Public debate about a second round of mass deer killings in Kane County will begin next week as state officials prepare to test for the spread of chronic wasting disease.
An already intense push back from local residents about the deer culling will heat up a notch as state officials want permission to shoot twice as many deer as last year.
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Kane County Forest Preserve District officials will open the debate about where state officials should be allowed to cull the deer and to what extent at a 7 p.m. meeting Monday at Rutland Township Hall. Dundee Township officials are expected to begin their leg of the conversation Nov. 17. And Sleepy Hollow officials will start their with a Monday night committee meeting and again Nov. 21.
Discussions involving state sharpshooters on forest preserve property are expected to feature the most vitriol.
"Of all the issues I get calls about, people are the most fit to be tied over this one," said Forest Preserve Commissioner T.R. Smith. "In talking with Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials, I've told them they aren't being very flexible on this issue. They tell me their science doesn't allow them to be flexible. But my constituents are against these cullings; so I'm against it. You want to do what's right, but the DNR's credibility is really questionable here. The proof they have about chronic wasting disease in this area is very sketchy."
Residents said one of their main sources of skepticism comes from the fact that state officials didn't find chronic wasting disease in any of the more than 75 deer they killed in the last round.
Four deer were ultimately found with the disease in the county. However, all four of those deer were found by local hunters or residents.
The problem Bill Siers and his fellow members of the North Rutland Deer Alliance have with those results is they can't find anyone with any solid, firsthand knowledge of seeing or killing the deer that tested positive. The result is the near extinction of deer in the north Rutland Township area for no good cause, Siers said.
"It's like somebody dropped a poison pill in here," Siers said. "They are all gone. If they come in and kill more deer, it will be the last remnants of what we have left. All the deer they killed last time were healthy. It was a complete waste. Now they want to come back and kill more. When they are done, they'll pick up their marbles and leave, and we'll be left with what's left over, which will be nothing."
A partial compromise is already in place to help soothe some of the outcry. State officials will subtract any deer local hunters volunteer for testing from the total number the state will cull. Forest preserve officials have opened their maintenance facilities to be sample drop-off locations.
But hunter participation is expected to be low with fears that any samples submitted that test positive will only trigger the state to cull even more deer next year.
Siers said his group has no problem with some testing. His alliance wants the number of deer culled to be limited to no more than the total amount killed last year. He also wants the state to both substantiate and be open with their testing data, especially regarding any deer that test positive for the disease.
"We've never said we're against any testing," Siers said. "We're not unreasonable. But this has to be done within reasonable boundaries."