Submitted photo

Mother Nature does not lie.

Preserving a thriving forest and ecosystem is wholly different from simply culling a seemingly random number of hosta-chomping deer who stare predictably at the headlights of a 25-mph-traveling minivan.

Preserving the forest may mean the uncomfortable admission that we are facing both personal and communal responsibility — work that may force us to roll up our sleeves and dab our wrists with Deet.

With a $120 million budget, we may need to ask the Cook County Forest Preserve to do a little better. It seems it needs to conduct or seek out through research with conscientious attempts to understand the forest floor, the impact of furry forest friends, and perhaps most importantly, to better understand and potentially remedy the source of the problems those of us living in communities along the Des Plaines River are facing.

As of now, research on deer around River Forest appears anecdotal at best. I see a deer, you see 11 deer, someone on Facebook (where all information is accurate) saw 24 deer or one was impaled on a fence. OK, we get it. There are deer here. But acting without research or authentic advice from those in the field is as muddied as the forest floor itself.  

At the Jan. 13 village board meeting, it became exceedingly clear that village officials had not been provided with any research from the Cook County Forest Preserve. It is not clear why they had such little information, but it proved to be a pretty frustrating way to make the decision to call in sharpshooters who would bait deer and patiently wait in tree stands hoping for a clear target.

All of us — old and new residents alike — have our thoughts and hopefully questions too. Here are mine: I can’t help but notice the correlation between the water levels rising and the deer (and let’s be sure to add the trotting coyote and fox) heading to our hood.

I am not sure how folks are missing the headlines — perhaps comforting denial— but the Great Lakes water levels are at an all-time high and are actually predicted to get worse, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in a report this month. As this happens, no one should be surprised to notice wetlands replace dusty earth and that rivers deepen and widen, including our very own Des Plaines River. 

It’s even harder to miss when it hits home — and actually spills into your home.

Residents clearly notice the evidence of the rising water table beyond beheaded roses. Maybe the dots need to be connected. Is your backyard a puddle or even a pond after a rain when it wasn’t before? How about your basement? Is it getting seepage or flooding when there wasn’t an issue before? We are soaking in a reality of climate change, but we just turn on our sump pumps and call in ServiceMaster.

Nature does not lie very well; seems maybe it can’t.  

Perhaps the deer (and other forest animals) roaming around town are harbingers of a very real environmental crisis now in our back, front and side yards. Maybe our patches of personal earth are just awash in climate truth. 

While Mother Nature may be good at truth-telling, humans have a tendency to get trapped and snared by ego, which will do all it can to suppress what is less convenient. Culling the deer without examining the source allows us to put the crisis in the closet (with those other pesky problems that are just too much to deal with). 

I am clearly not a climate-change expert; just a mere observer, like most everyone else in the cull-the-deer debate. We can sharp-shoot all the deer we want — and we may need to settle on a thoughtful number of tags to help Mother Nature regain her balance — but it is vital to heed the early warnings these animals and  waters are presenting to us. 

Jennifer Moore, lifelong River Forester, was lucky enough to grow up with Thatcher Woods in her backyard.

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