First deer hunt coming to Illinois Beach State Park
Deer hunting will be allowed for the first time, starting next month, at a popular northern Lake County state park.
Bow-and-arrow hunters may bag the deer at Adeline Jay Geo-Karis Illinois Beach State Park near Zion. The hunting is being allowed to reduce what's believed to be an overabundance of deer that are eating too many plants at the park, according to Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials.
Daniel Ludwig, a department of natural resources regional wildlife biologist, said it's not known how many deer live at the park. Many of the park's roughly 1.2 million annual visitors go for hiking and other endeavors, which is why officials want it known that archery deer hunters will be permitted there from Nov. 1 through Jan. 17.
"We put a lot of effort into restoration of Illinois Beach State Park," Ludwig said. "It's a unique group of ecosystems to Illinois and the Great Lakes region."
Ludwig said the park's natural habitat can be threatened by too many deer. Officials said about 500 plant species -- with 51 considered threatened or endangered in Illinois -- are in the park that features swale and dune topography.
In a 2014 department of natural resources study, it was suggested Illinois Beach State Park has too many deer feeding on leaves, needles, twigs and buds that are detrimental to the endangered and threatened plants. In addition, the report stated the quality of wildlife habitats is threatened by the overabundance of deer.
Hunters will be required to be in elevated stands at a minimum of six feet high and 75 yards from designated trails. Officials said the trails will be open to hikers throughout the deer hunting season.
Ludwig said 110 hunters were selected in a drawing from 175 applicants to be allowed at Illinois Beach State Park. He said no more than 10 hunters will be allowed at any given time, and they'll be evenly divided in the north and south ends of the roughly 3,000-acre property.
There is no limit on the number of deer a hunter can harvest, officials said.
Success of the deer culling will be gauged by a study of the plants the animals have been eating, Ludwig said.
While this will be the first season of archery deer hunting at Illinois Beach State Park, it has been allowed at other state facilities. The list includes Volo Bog State Natural Area in Lake County and Moraine Hills State Park in McHenry County.
An overabundance of deer was cited for the return of archery hunting at the Kane County Forest Preserve District. The district said the hunting will occur at three sites with high deer density and documented ecosystem damage.