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Print

DNR prepares for CWD sharpshooting in northern Illinois

January 09, 2014 at 05:16 AM

Rockford Register Star


ROCKFORD - The Illinois Department of Natural Resources is approaching Rock River Valley property owners over the next few weeks to ask for permission to shoot deer that could be infected with a fatal disease.

It's a tactic used by the state since 2003 to help control the spread of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, which kills deer through an abnormal protein that causes the degeneration of nervous systems.

Since there isn't a treatment or cure for the illness, the state attempts to contain the spread of this illness to other animals by strategically placing sharpshooters in areas where deer with the disease have been found.

Winnebago and Boone counties are core areas of CWD, accounting for two-thirds of all cases in the state through fiscal year 2013.

The state's hope is that by keeping the deer population low in these areas, it can minimize the potential spread of the illness.

Some local hunters, however, are frustrated and argue that the state should allow them to take care of the deer population issue. Many residents feel there are better options to contain the disease.

Robert Miller of South Beloit said the state should open the deer hunting season for a longer period of time. That way the state could generate revenue from the tags while allowing locals to harvest more meat.

"The state of Illinois is broken and then they are still spending thousands of dollars" for state employees to come hunt in the region, he said.

Experts say if the disease is not contained, CWD could become more a problem in surrounding counties - like Stephenson - which already has had three animals test positive in fiscal year 2013.

"It's a program that to be honest nobody wants to do. It's very expensive, and it's a lot of work," said Doug Dufford, wildlife disease and invasive species wildlife program manager for the DNR.

"It's not particularly pleasant but it's necessary if we're going to ensure that there's a deer herd in Illinois 40 years from now."

Boone County Conservation District Executive Director Dan Kane said it's a no-win situation. Maintaining a lower density of deer in the area helps contain spread of the disease but also hurts hunters' chances of killing a deer.

"It's keeping Pandora inside the box," Kane said.

Jennifer Wheeler: 815-987-1354; .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); @jenmwheeler

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