Marty Adeszko said he was stunned by a discovery he made this month during a hike through Timber Ridge Forest Preserve near West Chicago.
For years, the Wheaton man's journeys through the preserve have been filled with scenes of nature and vibrant wildlife. But last Tuesday he stumbled upon a dead deer sprawled in plain sight along a trail, apparently killed with a firearm.
Adeszko said he discovered the animal less than 100 yards from a bait pile used by the DuPage Forest Preserve District's management program to control the deer population. He said he's worried the hunters used to cull the herd were negligent and left the animal in the open for the public to see.
"I love hiking and taking pictures of wildlife, so it hurts to see something like this," he said. "They are liable for this animal."
But forest preserve officials said they reviewed the last three weeks of operations at Timber Ridge and all shots fired as part of the deer management program resulted in recovered animals.
"As far as we know, the deer management program had no connection," district Deputy Police Chief Phil Gunnell said.
Gunnell said officials also investigated whether staff euthanized any deer found injured in the preserves, but no such kills were made in recent weeks.
In addition, district rangers are required to dispose of deer by donating their meat to food pantries and giving antlers to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, per state law.
"My guess is it was probably someone maybe out sport shooting," Gunnell said.
Residents are forbidden from bringing weapons into any DuPage preserve.
Decades ago, before the county was urbanized, illegal hunting was a problem, Gunnell said. But today, hunting complaints are rare.
The typical hunting problems rangers face in Timber Ridge are bow hunters who occasionally set up stands just outside the property and -- knowingly or unknowingly -- fire into the preserves.
"We've had to talk to some hunters about their field of fire," Gunnell said.
Still, Adeszko said he is disturbed by the doe he found and remains skeptical about who is to blame. He said he moved the animal from the main path, but it remained nearby Friday, its carcass now mauled by other animals like coyotes.
Adeszko did not report his find to forest preserve authorities, but Gunnell said officers and shift commanders have orders to keep extra watch at Timber Ridge.