Responding to concerns about landscaping damage, the village of River Forest presented a proposal to address deer overpopulation. Rather than consider that we live in a community adjacent to both a river and a forest, some residents express surprise that we coexist with deer. A proposal was reported in last week’s Wednesday Journal to control the population by hiring sharpshooters to “cull” the herd.

Compassion demands further consideration. Several years ago, a doe gave birth to two fawns on our block. The doe, adopted by neighbors as Jane Doe, was a great mother. With her fawns safely hidden, she would forage during the day and return in the evening to valiantly defend her offspring, two stereotypically active boys, from predators like coyotes, which also frequent the area.

Jane and her fawns stayed together for a year. One grew into a majestic buck, easily identifiable by his impressive size and antlers. The other was smaller, curious, frequently seen looking in windows and watching the world go by from behind a bush.

In 2018, Jane had two more fawns — the male, dubbed Shawn, and the female, Dawn. One neighbor, in hospice suffering from cancer, positioned her bed to watch the fawns play in her backyard. Another brought their grandchildren, who had never seen wild deer, to watch and appreciate the creatures with which we share our world. Others have named all the creatures that frequent the area. If you are observant, each deer has some distinct physical or personality trait.

Jane again stayed with her fawns for a full year. They frequently visited our yard to rest. Shawn would sometimes lay on his side and seemed to have running dreams, such as any dog owner would recognize. He was inquisitive, checking out his surroundings, while Dawn rested curled into a tight ball. She was petite and shy, letting Shawn first investigate new things. Always, Jane kept protective watch. After a year or so, Jane departed. Shawn and Dawn remained inseparable, at least until, like human adolescents, Shawn’s interests changed.

Lots of hosta has been eaten, no doubt, but they come back. If Jane, Dawn, Shawn or others are slaughtered, unique lives and personalities are forever extinguished. Our community will have abandoned an opportunity to teach ourselves and our children a valuable lesson in compassion and appreciation for our environment. In a village replete with plaques touting identification as National Wildlife Federation Certified Habitat, here is our chance to stand up for the values we claim to espouse. Rather than the easy, blunt, cruel and uncreative way to solve the overpopulation, let’s show our better selves and demonstrate to our children and others that we understand our duty as good stewards of the environment and the creatures around us.

We urge the village to consider humane alternatives to population control, such as the use of contraceptives, as endorsed by the EPA (

Mary and Chris Hillcoat are longtime River Forest residents and avid supporters of wildlife and the environment.

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