The Forest Preserve District's 2017-2018 Deer Management Program will begin December 4.
Forest Preserve areas involved in the program are: Romeoville Prairie Nature Preserve, Isle a la Cache, Lockport Prairie Nature Preserve, McKinley Woods, Hickory Creek Preserve, Raccoon Grove Nature Preserve, Thorn Creek Woods Nature Preserve, Prairie Bluff Preserve and the Kankakee Sands geologic area, which includes Sand Ridge Savanna Preserve, Kankakee Sands Preserve and Braidwood Dunes and Savanna Nature Preserve.
The 2017-2018 plan calls for the removal of a total of 162 deer. The District's goal is to reach a deer population level of 20 to 30 deer per square mile.
The program involves sharpshooters who cull the deer. The sharpshooting unit is made up of Forest Preserve police and volunteers who are certified annually by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Once deer have been culled, they are field dressed at another location and transported to an IDNR-approved, licensed facility to process the meat. The IDNR requires the meat to be donated to local food pantries.
Culling operations occur at dusk when the preserves are closed. Signs are being posted at the entrances to the preserves where sharpshooting activities are scheduled to occur. Preparations begin in November, and the preserves will be closed at 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, starting December 4. The program typically concludes in February, but it can extend into March depending on weather conditions and the number of deer being culled in a particular year.
The District's Deer Management Program began in 2010 and has taken place each winter except in 2012-2013 when there was an outbreak of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. The program was created to deal with overbrowsing damage caused by high density levels of white-tailed deer, which threaten the well-being of the District's woodlands, savannas and prairies.
The overbrowsing damage over the last decade has become quite noticeable and, if left unmanaged, will result in rapid and dramatic changes to these areas. Excessive overbrowsing reduces plant and animal diversity and habitat and can lead to erosion. Proactive management assists in maintaining the ecological balance of natural areas.
Additional details relating to this year's program can be found in the 2017-2018 Deer Management Plan.
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