Lake County Forest Preserve District officials may adopt a policy that district staff must be on hand when sharpshooters are culling deer in the preserves.
Members of the Forest Board's Finance and Administrative Committee said Friday they would favor such a move after animal activists continued their pleas for an investigation into the wounding of a deer earlier this year at Ryerson Woods.
Voice for Wildlife members repeated their assertion Friday that a wounded deer – spotted at the end of a blood trail near a shooting blind in Ryerson in February – was shot but not killed by sharpshooters carrying out the district's deer management program.
While district Executive Director Steve Messerli said an investigation by forest rangers found no evidence to support allegations that a deer was wounded but not killed by the sharpshooters, committee members said a supervised program would avoid such problems in the future.
"If someone is on our property with a loaded weapon, we should have paid staff on site," said committee member Pamela Newton. "The issue here is not what happened with the (one) deer. That is past, and no one knows for sure. One way we can rebut this kind of thing is to have someone who can say 'I was there, this did not happen.' We can make sure this type of incident or allegation doesn't happen again."
"I agree. It's an accountability factor," said committee member Diana O'Kelly.
Committee members said such supervision would not be open to the public for risk-management reasons, but they did not rule out the possibility that board members could supervise the shooting.
Messerli stressed that the district's culling policy is not automatic, but only instituted when counts show an overpopulation problem. He also reiterated that the district will explore anti-fertility options when they are proven and become widely available.
Voice for Wildlife members Kathy Lipschultz, Greg Campbell and Davida Terry repeated allegations made at last month's County Board meeting that district officials covered up what they maintain was a botched attempt to kill the deer in Ryerson.
Campbell said the district needs to "dismiss incompetent employees" and change its deer-management policy.
Messerli said forest rangers fully investigated the purported incident, including watching a video of the blood trail, and "confirmed our original statement. No deer were wounded by our management program."