Hunt draws protesters to Allerton Park

By Megan Loiselle

Holding signs that read, “Research humane methods that work” and “Don’t turn Allerton Park into a hunting club,” about a dozen protesters drew attention to their cause by standing at the starting and finish lines of the Second Wind Running Club’s race through the park Sunday.

Their protest concerned the commencement of the bow hunting of deer at the Robert Allerton Conservation Park in Monticello, Ill.

For the first time in its history, the University is allowing hunting on park property for a handful of hunters who have received permission to kill deer in an effort to control the booming population.

Lisa Ward, a protester and sophomore in LAS, said she believes such a method of population control is never justified.

Because the hunters must pay the park for permission to hunt, local yoga instructor Dhruva Tyoti believes the real motive for hunt is profit. Tyoti said he joined the protest because yoga teaches “ahimsa,” which means no harm should be done to any creature. While he agrees there is an overpopulation problem, Tyoti said the problem is the result of human interference.

Tyoti said a natural solution – such as contraceptives – should be used on the deer. The contraceptives are put on the end of darts and shot into the deer like a tranquilizer.

“It is our responsibility because it’s our fault,” Tyoti said.

University officials have said that decreasing the deer population through contraceptive use or sharpshooting would be too costly.

Queenie Tsui, president of the University’s chapter of Students Improving the Lives of Animals, agreed with Tyoti.

Tsui said hunting outside the park is the reason why so many deer have migrated to it. SILA members helped organize the protest to raise awareness about the deer hunt.

“Many people don’t realize there is a hunt going on right now,” Tsui said.

Tsui said she believes hunting goes against the ideals of nature conservation and appreciation that Allerton Park represents.

“Allerton has a peaceful theme,” Tsui said. “Now there’s no place for the deer to go.”

She said that if hunting were necessary, sharpshooting would be more humane than bow hunting because there is less risk that a deer might survive.

Another protester, Mike Case of Mahomet, Ill., said it sometimes takes as many as 10 arrows to kill a deer.

Protester Merianne O’Grady of Urbana sees the problem as a great opportunity for the University to do research.

“I really believe that the University could really step up to investigate this,” O’Grady said. “The deer population is a problem all over the country.”

Senior in engineering Mike Callahan wore a deer costume to the protest. He said the costume served a dual purpose – to draw attention to their protests and serve as a Halloween costume.

“I’m in engineering, so any issue that (skews) science for politics doesn’t make me happy,” Callahan said.

Callahan said he believes the overpopulation problem has been exaggerated.

O’Grady said she’s not trying to say there is no problem, but that she wants to make plain the cruelty of bow hunting.

Jim Gortner, interim director of operations at Allerton, said a February survey of the park found there were 730 deer within the park’s boundaries.

“All wildlife is under the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and they did not support anything but bow hunting or shotgun hunting,” Gortner said. “We opted for bow hunting for obvious reasons.”

He said the DNR would not issue a permit for sharpshooting.

“The only time they’ve issued (a sharpshooting permit) was as a last resort,” Gortner said.

Gortner said while this is Allerton’s first attempt at controlling the population, they have been studying the deer since the early 1980s.

Celeste Blodgett, a Champaign resident and frequent visitor at Allerton, said she could understand the protesters’ argument.

“There’s got to be a better way,” Blodgett said.

As the runners finished the race, a couple people came up to the protesters to shake their hands or ask them questions.

“For every one person that says we’re hippie weirdos, there’s two or three that say we have a point,” Ward said.