A deer lover in Carpentersville has set up a showdown between herself and the Dundee Township Board that if successful could terminate a state program that involves culling deer, then testing their organs for chronic wasting disease.
Billita Jacobsen is rallying the community to stand with her to save the deer at the township's annual meeting April 10. There's a quirk in state law that lets registered voters overturn certain township board decisions at the annual meeting and the deer issue happens to be one of them, officials said. Jacobsen secured 30 signatures on a petition -- twice the number she needed -- to force a vote on the issue.
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"I really don't want to start trouble, I just want to save the deer," Jacobsen said. "I like our open spaces and deer are part of nature. We should coexist with them, not slaughter them."
If a majority of registered voters attending the meeting side with Jacobsen, that would put an end to the program and force the state to approach voters with their future culling plans at the annual meeting, instead of the township board. It also means the state would likely miss a season of deer culling, if the meetings continue to be held at the season's end.
"That would be a concern for us," said Jim Herkert, director of the office of resource conservation at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. "In order to control the disease, you've got to keep the numbers down."
Township Supervisor Sue Harney has invited Dr. Nohra Mateus, a state wildlife veterinary epidemiologist, to explain the disease and how it affects the deer. Jacobsen is scheduled to speak against the culling efforts.
"It's really important that we get people there," Harney said. "It's an opportunity to educate the community at large about what the issues are and then get their input."
In December, the township board voted 3 to 2 to let IDNR kill and test 30 deer in Salamander Springs, just off Binnie Road, an area in which about 600 deer call home. Preliminary numbers show five tested positive for chronic wasting disease in that area, Herkert said Friday.
"Five hits is a pretty high number from such a small area -- we generally don't see those," Herkert said.
Chronic wasting disease is a neurological ailment that's 100 percent fatal to the deer that catch it. The disease forms lesions in the brains of affected animals. Symptoms include a lowered head, excessive saliva and an emaciated body.
IDNR is running a five-year program to determine where the disease came from and how it migrated here. The program involves shooting the deer, then testing their brain and lymph nodes for the disease. Officials also hope the shootings keep the disease from spreading.
The township's annual meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. and will be held at Randall Oaks Golf Club and Banquets, 4101 Binnie Road West.