The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is examining its deer management program to determine if modifications are needed to hunting seasons and regulations – and to the effort focused in select northern Illinois counties to reduce the deer population and limit the spread of chronic wasting disease in the Illinois deer herd.
The review of Illinois’ deer management program is a follow up to implementation of a series of recommendations made in 2008 by the state’s Joint Legislative Task Force on Deer Population Control. Among the task force recommendations was a statewide 14% reduction in the deer herd (as indicated by the rate of deer/vehicle accidents), with specific county goals identified. IDNR expanded the Late-Winter Deer Season and made available additional permits in some counties beginning in 2009 to encourage hunters to harvest additional surplus deer. The statewide accident rate is very close to the identified goal, although some counties still remain higher than desired.
The IDNR also expanded the Special Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Deer Season in 2009 as part of the program begun in 2002 for surveillance and targeted herd reduction in counties where CWD had been identified.
CWD is a disease that afflicts deer by causing a degeneration of the nervous system, and fatal infections can be passed by close contact among deer. Since 2004, IDNR has supplemented hunter harvest by using Department sharpshooters each winter to reduce deer densities in known CWD hotspots in northern Illinois counties. This management approach has suppressed the rate of CWD infection in deer at very low levels. While the sharpshooting program is effective, budget reductions over the past decade is compelling the department to explore alternative means of reducing deer herd density in CWD counties, including changes in hunting programs, assisting local landowning agencies in their own deer herd reduction programs, and working with local hunters to increase their deer harvest on private lands.
IDNR will be conducting an analysis of both programs during the coming months and will provide opportunity for public comment on management goals.