A wounded deer that left a trail of blood in the Ryerson Woods Forest Preserve in February was not the result of botched work by sharpshooters culling deer at the site, according to Lake County Forest Preserve District officials.
Animal rights activists armed with still photographs and video footage of a blood trail taken in Ryerson near Deerfield, asked members of the Forest Board on Tuesday to investigate the incident further, suggesting that sharpshooters didn't accurately shoot the deer, or track it down to finish the job.
Activists Greg Campbell and Steve Hindi said that they were walking in Ryerson the afternoon of Feb. 15 and found the blood trail near deer bait and a shooting blind. Campbell said they eventually came upon the deer, which apparently had been shot in the side, and that it ran off.
Forest district staff officials said that four deer were killed that morning at Ryerson as part of the district's management program, but that according to the sharpshooters, all were killed with one shot, no others shots were fired and the carcasses were removed.
"That deer was left in the woods, bleeding profusely," he told the board. "They're saying it didn't happen. Somebody's covering it up."
"There is no question that the shooters were from the lake County Forest Preserve District," Hindi asserted.
"All we are asking is that if the program is credible, we have to get some answers here," Hindi said. "You're not getting the truth and it involves guns. This is worth looking into."
Fellow activists Don and Davida Terry played the board a tape of a deer being shot by cullers in DuPage County , to emphasize what happens when deer aren't killed instantly. Some board members covered their ears to avoid the squealing and gasping noises recorded on the tape.
"I care and I know a lot of you care, please help us get a voice," Davida Terry said.
Forest Preserve Board President Carol Calabresa asked board members not to respond to comments and question s from the group.
After the public comments were completed, she read a statement prepared by district administrators denying the district's involvement in the incident and accusing the activists of attempting to create controversy through the media.
"Their comments today are obviously to create controversy and gain media attention, not to get answers," Calabresa read. "Nevertheless, we are providing the following answers. Four deer were culled at Ryerson Woods the morning of Feb. 15. None headed into the woods with a wound. Any marks in the snow away from the culling site could not have been caused by our deer management work that morning.
Victim of poachers?
The statement suggested the deer could have been a victim of poachers or may have been involved in an accident with a vehicle. It also criticized the activists for failing to contact the district directly until three weeks after the incident.
It is hard for us to investigate issues that we learn about second-or third-hand, especially when time is of the essence," it stated.
Calabresa said after the meeting officials will be willing to discuss the incident further at the committee level.
Some board members said they believe the issue raises some questions, including consideration of who should be present when culling is taking place.
The board established the deer management program in 1992. The number of deer killed each year is based on two aerial counts. A total of 18 deer were shot at Ryerson this year.
Officials said the district plans to instate wildlife contraception instead of culling "as soon as it is shown to be a scientifically sound and effective method for reducing and maintaining populations of deer in sites such as our preserves."