The latest numbers show no deer tested positive for chronic wasting disease during the Kane County Forest Preserve District's most recent archery hunting season. But officials aren't celebrating the numbers just yet.
They created a controlled archery hunting program in 2012 to reduce the deer population to numbers that allow both deer and vegetation to exist at a healthy level. Hunters can participate in the program via a lottery system and participation in a safety course and proficiency test. Hunting occurs at the Freeman Kane, Brunner/Fox River Shores and Big Rock preserves.
Forty-eight hunters took down 40 deer. About half the deer came from the Brunner/Fox River Shores West preserve. All deer were tested for chronic wasting disease. The sample size was small, but it is the first time since the 2014-15 season the district found no presence of the disease.
Bill Graser, the district's wildlife ecologist, said it's too soon to feel good about not finding any chronic wasting disease. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources conducts its own culling and disease sampling in the county's preserves. The department has not released its testing results, which come after the close of the state's fiscal year Friday.
Last year, the state program found eight deer testing positive for chronic wasting disease. That was the highest number since the department began its program in the county in 2011. Kane County has 35 positive chronic wasting disease tests in the history of the state program. McHenry County has 53 total and DeKalb County 69. The counties with the most positive tests are Boone with 149 and Winnebago with 167.
"The fact we didn't get any in our program is a good thing," Graser said. "But it's still a problem."
Graser believes the state's numbers will show Kane County to have a number of deer with the disease consistent with previous years.
Monica Meyers, the district's executive director, said the county program is doing good work with or without the presence of the disease. She said 70 percent of the deer taken by hunters in the past year were female, a positive step toward reducing the deer population.
"If we can maintain and lower our deer population, that's our goal," Meyers said.
The application period for the district's next hunting season begins Friday and ends July 21. Lottery winners will be notified between July 26 and 28. All participants must attempt a minimum of five hunts and be full-time residents of Kane County.