DuPage County's top animal stories of 2013
Chronic wasting disease fears: The DuPage Forest Preserve District and Illinois Department of Natural Resources did some extra deer culling in January at the Mallard Lake and Hawk Hollow forest preserves after concerns arose that a fatal neurological disorder capable of devastating deer populations had spread into the area. Officials said they found a deer infected with chronic wasting disease, a fatal malady that had never before been found in a deer in DuPage. Happily, district officials said in April there were no other signs of the disease spreading.
Investigation at Danada: For the second time in two years, complaints from volunteers triggered a probe into the management of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District's Danada Equestrian Center and the treatment of the roughly two dozen horses housed there. A probe in 2012 found no wrongdoing, but this time the forest preserve commission selected newly elected member Shannon Burns to conduct an in-depth probe. And when Burns issued her report in June, the bottom line was the same: the animals are healthy and happy. But Burns did make several recommendations the district elected to pursue, including hiring a vet to spend 10 hours a week at Danada and working to ensure the quality of hay the horses receive.
Peacock abuse charged: A Roselle man, David Beckman, was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in May after police said he sexually abused his pet peacock, Phyl, that later was found dead in his garage. Police said they discovered the incident while investigating the 64-year-old for another crime. A month later a DuPage judge found Beckman mentally unfit to stand trial.
Cougar in Meacham Grove? Bloomingdale police and the DuPage County Forest Preserve District investigated a report of a "large feline" spotted in Meacham Grove Forest Preserve that some speculated might be a cougar. The animal was spotted by police who were using thermal-imaging equipment while searching for a missing woman. But while something large clearly was moving about in a tree, experts said there was no way to tell exactly what it was.
Pradel's dragon stolen: OK, this one wasn't a real animal, but it was a dragon sculpture that was stolen from the yard of Naperville Mayor George Pradel and then unceremoniously tossed over a bridge on to some railroad tracks. The dragon, Nighty-Knight, was recovered and returned to the mayor and the two college wrestlers who took it received misdemeanor convictions.
Why did turtles cross the road? DuPage Forest Preserve officials cautioned drivers to be on the lookout for pregnant turtles crossing area roads in June and July as the creatures searched for high ground to lay their eggs. Officials said they were getting a large number of reports of turtles killed or injured by passing vehicles. "There's very little going on in the brain of a turtle other than 'I've got to dump these eggs,'" said Kevin Luby, a naturalist with Willowbrook Wildlife Center in Glen Ellyn.
Man guilty of killing cockatiel: A Glendale Heights man, David Hritz, who claimed his pet cockatiel already was dead when he cut it up to feed his pet snakes, was found guilty in July of aggravated animal cruelty for stabbing the bird multiple times in what prosecutors called a "fit of unprovoked rage." He was sentenced in October to 90 days in jail.
Turtles cross the road, Part 2: Seven turtle hatchlings that appeared doomed when a car hit their pregnant mother were released into a DuPage County forest preserve in August. A naturalist at Willowbrook Wildlife Center, Kevin Luby, incubated the eggs at home and then helped nurse the babies to health before releasing them.
Just a little kidding around: Naperville Park District released a herd of 45 goats to chow down on invasive species and poison ivy at Knoch Knoll park in September as part of a monthlong effort to clear roughly five acres of the site for future development as an expanded disc golf course. Officials said the goats were cheaper than human crews. Here's the best part: The goats finished the task well ahead of schedule.
A very special tribute to pets: DuPage Forest Preserve Commissioner Joe Cantore announced in early October that he and his wife, Jaclyn, want to provide "natural and organic" pet memorials at all six of the district's dog parks. "As a dog owner," he said, "I understand how an animal can become a member of the family."
Retired draft horses find home: Two aging draft horses at the Danada Equestrian Center in Wheaton, Rosie and June, who once appeared headed for possible adoption or the slaughterhouse will instead be allowed to stay at the preserve to live out their retirement days. "We need to come up with a formal plan that really indicates and substantiates what we're going to do when animals reach retirement age and are no longer able to do what they're supposed to do," forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti said.
Stolen puppies found: Two puppies stolen in November from Petland stores in Naperville and Bolingbrook were recovered safe and sound near St. Louis. Authorities believe the same woman stole both puppies, first a 14-week-old white Maltese named Hercules from the Bolingbrook store and then a 10-week-old white Havanese named Casper from Naperville. Both dogs were unharmed.
Bird hoarder pleads guilty: An Aurora man who kept more than 450 living and dead birds in his townhouse was convicted in November of animal hoarding and cruelty charges. David Skeberdis, 58, pleaded guilty in DuPage County court and was sentenced to one year of probation, counseling and 50 hours of public service.
Coyotes kill 3 Wheaton dogs: Coyotes killed at least three small dogs during less than two weeks in late November and early December in Wheaton. Officials urged residents to be extra cautious with their pets after coyotes carried away two small pooches and badly mauled a third that later had to be put down.
Rescuer gets to keep five dogs: A Wood Dale woman who got into trouble for having too many dogs in her home pet rescue operation will be allowed to keep the five ailing animals that remain, officials decided in December. Lisa Spakowski, founder and president of Illinois Birddog Rescue, was ticketed by Wood Dale for having at least 10 dogs in her house. It's illegal in the city to have more than three. But at year's end, officials decided to drop the complaint as long as she keeps the number of dogs in her household to five or less.