University of Illinois Extension

Frequently Asked Questions

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I found a fawn. How do I help it?

It is normal for a doe to leave her fawn alone for long periods of time, only coming back to nurse it periodically. It is extremely unlikely that the fawn is abandoned. The best way to help the fawn is to leave it where you found it.

Is it illegal for me to plant food plots to attract deer to my property?

No. It is not illegal to do so, and in fact, many individuals plant such food plots or leave a few rows of unharvested crops in their fields adjacent to wooded habitat for that purpose. Contact your local IDNR district wildlife biologist for suggestions on how to create and enhance suitable habitat for deer and other wildlife on your property.

Are deer safe to eat?

Using deer meat to supplement their pantry is one of the primary reasons many people hunt deer each year. As with any other animal that is used for food, including domestic livestock, there is always a slight risk that a particular animal has a disease. However, most of the diseases in deer are species-specific, that is, humans cannot contract them.

Deer processors, and hunters who butcher their own deer, are quite observant when it comes to something that does not "look right." Each year, IDNR biologists field many questions from individuals who have found some type of abscess or slight discoloration in the meat or some other peculiarity about the deer they harvested. IDNR is not responsible for food safety, the food quality of harvested deer, or for testing meat for safety of consumption. Agencies with food safety responsibility, such as the Illinois Department of Agriculture, advise hunters to use good judgment and to discard and/ or have tested any deer, or meat thereof, which is suspicious.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Laboratories provide CWD testing.Directions for submission of specimens can be found at: http://agr.state.il.us/AnimalHW/cwd/submit.html

How do I legally claim a deer carcass?

The Public Health and Safety section of this website provides information about this topic. You can find information about what to do if you find a deer that was killed or injured by a motor vehicle and you wish to claim it and what to do if you wish to claim a deer that was killed or injured by methods other than lawful hunting or a deer-vehicle accident.

There are too many deer where I live, but hunting is not an option here. What are my options?

You may be surprised to learn that archery and firearm deer hunts are conducted safely in Illinois, even in highly urbanized counties. While most people think that simply trapping and moving the deer is the logical solution, past attempts at doing so have proven unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. Such attempts are very expensive and very stressful to the deer as they are being handled, sometimes leading to their dying after being captured. From radio-tracking studies, biologists have also found that the relocated deer often try to return to their home, and as a result, they are often killed as they cross roads and highways trying to do so. Lastly, due to the white-tailed deer’s reproductive potential, the deer numbers will quickly rebound.

Use of immunocontraceptives to control the reproduction of area white-tailed deer has been tried in some areas. However, along with being an expensive program to implement and maintain, the results have thus far been less than adequate to address the over-population problem.

Why is it illegal to feed deer in Illinois? What if deer come to my bird feeders?

Disease transmission can be increased by animals sharing common feeding sites. It has been shown fairly conclusively that many deer diseases are transmitted either through saliva or through fecal contamination at concentrated feeding areas. The discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease in 2002 led IDNR to ban all deer feeding to reduce the rate of spread of this disease, which is always fatal to deer.

While it is not illegal to feed birds, it is best to suspend feeding of birds until deer are no longer feeding there, or to move the feeders into an area where deer are less likely to feed.