Since 2001, the number of deer in parts of Winnebago County has nearly tripled. What's more, the deer population back then was already considered to be high. A survey conducted earlier this year shows that parts of the county host nearly 300 deer per square mile!
Doug Dufford, a wildlife biologist from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, says 20 to 40 deer per square mile is a healthier population density. He says with populations as high as they are, the environment and the deer themselves are being put at risk. Native plants and vegetation suffer, and the risk for spreading disease is increasing.
One idea recently proposed to help curb the population rise has been setting up a recreation hunt. It's an idea Dufford says is cost-effective and efficient. However, conflicts may arise concerning land use in the forest preserves that would be used for such hunts.
Winnebago County has recently enlisted the help of sharpshooters to kill some of the deer. While considerably more expensive than a recreational hunt, Dufford says it's oftentimes a safer means.
Dufford is hesitant to throw his support to one means of controlling the population or the other, but strongly advises Winnebago County to take a long hard look at the situation, and come up with both short and long term plans on how to keep the deer population in check.