Roosevelt Middle School FILE/Alex Rogals)

A heated meeting of the Ad Hoc Deer Committee on Jan. 19 ended in a vote narrowly in favor of recommending culling to the River Forest village board.

The final vote was 8 to 6, with chair Tom Cargie’s pro-culling vote questioned by at least one committee member since he is also a village trustee, and whether he should get a second vote on the issue when it goes before the board was brought up.

With the pro-culling vote, the committee will prepare a report recommending the village of River Forest contract with sharpshooters from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) to control the deer population in Thatcher Woods. The report will be finalized at a March 9 meeting of the committee, after which it will be presented to the village board.

Dissenting opinions and reports will be allowed, Cargie said.

The committee recently gathered and published results of a survey of River Forest residents on the deer population. Results are available on the village website. 

The survey included responses from 1,514 River Forest residents. Results were about 50/50 in response to whether the respondent had experienced any “deer issues,” with 49 percent reporting none and 51 percent reporting yes.

Of those who responded they had seen issues with deer (836 people), the three biggest problems were damage to vegetation (87.3% had experienced this), feces in yard (62.1% experienced this) and the idea that deer had become “too tame,” a notion that nearly 50 percent of respondents to the question supported.

As for culling, survey responses were as follows, based on a total of 1,509 answers to the question regarding solutions to the deer overpopulation problem:

  • Do nothing and leave deer alone: 22.8 percent (344 responses)
  • Prefer non-lethal (no killing deer) options (i.e. more traffic signs, education): 27.8 percent (420 responses)
  • Prefer lethal (killing of deer via professional sharpshooting): 22 percent (332 responses)
  • Prefer a combination of both options above for managing issues: 18.6 percent (280 responses)
  • No opinion/do not care: 2.2 percent (33 responses)
  • Other: 6.6 percent (100 responses)

“We’ve done our due diligence,” said committee member Don Hollenbach in response to the survey results. “Now it’s time to listen to the people. You can see it right here on this graph.”

Julie Armstrong said she disagreed with Hollenbach’s assessment, because although people are finding feces in their yards and their plants are being destroyed, “there is really no evidence saying and citing that we have life or death situations; the life-or-death situation here is for the wildlife.” If there were more traffic accidents attributed to deer, she said, it would be a different story.

Other anti-culling members of the committee, too, tried to steer the meeting’s discussion toward doing more research or even another community survey, including Laurie Gillard, who shared information about how other communities have dealt with similar issues.

On the pro-culling side, though, some committee members said they were tired of the same arguments coming up time and time again. 

“One year later, I still believe that the people that don’t want to cull the deer is that it’s down to an animal rights thing,” Cathleen Hughes said. “I’ve heard quotes from committee members, ‘death is permanent’ … I respect other people’s feelings.” However, said Hughes, we live in a world “where animal consumption is widely acceptable.” 

According to documentation from the IDNR, venison from the culled deer would be donated to the Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Hughes also argued against the characterization of those who support culling by some anti-culling committee members as “the people that want their plants are jerks, and they want to kill deer.” 

“I mean, it’s a population management system, not deer eradication; it’s not something that we’re just, you know, looking to kill off Bambi and his mother and, you know, call it a day,” Hughes said, adding that controlling the deer population would help prevent chronic wasting disease, something that would benefit the herd.

Ron Lemar said he, too, was tired of the same issues being brought up over and over.

“I believe that there’s several members of this committee who filibuster the same points over and over again at every single committee meeting,” Lemar said. “Laura [Gillard], you keep bringing up sterilization. I think we know that that is not an option. We’ve been told that’s not an option. But yet it comes up at every single meeting for some reason, and you keep going on and on about it.”

“If I hear the argument about birth control one more time, I think my head is going to explode,” Hollenbach said at another point of the meeting.

After the heated discussion, Cargie said the close vote indicated the committee was doing its job and was well-selected to represent the issue.

“It’s reflective of our village,” Cargie said. “I mean, it’s a testament to the village president’s ability to balance a board. But it’s where we’re at.”

Committee member Annette Madden, however, disagreed. “I was just going to say in response to yours about our village president doing such a wonderful job picking a committee. I would have to say that I think the exact opposite … I am not against a cull. I actually came on to learn about the deer, learn about our committee. And all I really learned about was is exactly how our governments run. And it is rigged from the beginning. And I’m embarrassed to be a part of this group.”

Members who voted in favor of culling were Dan Hollenbach, John Roeger, Cathleen Hughes, Ron Lemar, Jack Flynn, Tom Cargie, Dawn Mizgala and Joel Leuking.

Those who voted against were Annette Madden, Julie Armstrong, Marta Kozbur, Ingrid Liu, Laurie Gillard and Katherine Christmas.

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