Governor expands hunting season

By Gus Bode

Deer hunting season expanded due to deadly disease

Blagojevich signed bill last week

In an attempt to save the deer population from Chronic Wasting Disease, Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week signed into law a bill that will expand the current deer-hunting season.

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CWD is a fatal, neurological disease affecting deer and elk. It is spread from one animal to another through close contact. The incurable disease causes infected animals to become emaciated, show abnormal behavior and eventually die.

In the past, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was only able to permit deer harvesting during the set deer hunting seasons, which ran between October and January, depending on the weapon being used to hunt.

“Under the previous legislation, if you found a herd in June, you would have to wait until the fall when the hunting season begins to go in and get the contaminated herd,” said Kevin Semlow, associate director of State Legislation for the Illinois Farm Bureau. “One of the things that we are conscious about is livestock being ruined by contaminated deer. This law will help reduce the chance of that happening.”

The new law will control chronic wasting and other wildlife diseases affecting wild deer herds in Illinois.

Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, a co-sponsor of the legislation, said he thinks that expanded hunting seasons are appropriate considering the overpopulation of deer and the threat of CWD.

“This bill has been a long-time coming,” Bost said. “It will help out the state of Illinois by giving hunters more time to hunt and increasing local tourism.”

Illinois’ concern with testing CWD increased after the disease was found in southern Wisconsin. Since last year, 14 cases have been confirmed within a cluster of counties in northern Illinois.

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“This will give more people an opportunity to go hunting with the firearm of their choice,” said Richard Pearson, president of the Illinois State Rifle Association. “Also, there are many areas in Illinois and around the nation that are overpopulated with deer. White-tailed deer kill more people than any other animal, so this can be used as a means to increase safety.”

Several other bills were passed into law last week. The Illinois Prevailing Wages Act will require enforcement and accountability of the prevailing wages law for contractors and subcontractors for all state projects.

Blagojevich also signed a law that will reduce prescription drug costs for the elderly and the disabled by up to 30 percent starting in January 2004.

Reporter Amber Ellis can be reached at [email protected]

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