Living With White-Tailed Deer
This page provides problem-solving advice and ways to make your yard less attractive to deer in the first place.
For more information on these large mammals, including what they eat and where they live in the forest preserves, visit the main white-tailed deer page.
Fawn Alone in the Woods
Unlike humans, fawns spend much of their time alone or with siblings. Females can leave them alone for up to 24 hours at a time.
If you see a fawn alone, do not disturb it. The mother is likely near, and it’s always best to have fawns raised by their own species. Additionally, as with other native wildlife, deer are protected by state law, and it is unlawful to care for a fawn without a wildlife rehabilitation permit.
Deer on the Road
Deer and auto collisions increase dramatically October through December, when deer are in rut, and May through June, when young from the previous year are out on their own and does are with fawn and thus slower and less agile. There are several ways you can help lower your chance of a collision.
- Reduce your speed and watch for deer on the edge of a road, especially at dawn and dusk.
- Heed deer-warning signs. They are placed in areas where collisions are likely to occur.
- Remember where you’ve seen deer before.
- Be careful around curves.
- If a deer crosses in front of your car, slow down and expect more to follow.
- Don’t assume that a deer in the road will run off as you approach.
- Don’t use your horn unless you think you’re going to collide with a deer. Far away noises may confuse deer. Close noises may produce an extra burst of speed from the animal, but you can never predict how deer will respond.
If You Hit a Deer
- If you’re in an accident and people are injured, call 911. If there’s over $500 in damage, you must file a report with the police.
- If you’re the driver, you can claim the deer. If you do not claim it before leaving the scene, any Illinois resident can.
- If you claim a deer killed in a vehicle collision, you must contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources either within 24 hours at dnr.illinois.gov or by 4:30 p.m. the next business day at 217-782-6431. You’ll need to provide your name and address, the date you acquired the deer and in which county, physical information about the deer, and your intent to bring the deer to a taxidermist or tannery. You must also confirm you are an Illinois resident, have not had wildlife privileges suspended in any state, and are not delinquent on any child-support payments.
- If you’re involved in a collision and do not want to claim the deer, you do not have to file a report with the IDNR.
- If you find a dead or injured deer that was not killed by a vehicle or was not taken by legal hunting methods, you cannot move it or its parts without permission from the IDNR. The regional office for DuPage is at 847-608-3100.
How to Make Your Yard Less Attractive
- Never feed deer. (It’s not only bad for their diets but also illegal in Illinois.)
- String light bird netting around multiple plants. Place fencing around individual ones.
- Place chicken wire around young trees.
- Spray plants with a mixture of 1 gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce or garlic puree. Reapply after a heavy dew or rain.
- Drill holes through bars of wrapped soap, even unscented bars, and hang them no more than 3 feet apart. Nylons filled with human hair may also work. Leave them up for a week.
- Scarecrows, bright lights, loud music, motion detectors and hanging tinfoil or pie tins may work for a few days, but once deer become familiar with the items, they lose effectiveness.
- Install a 6- to 8-foot fence. Deer can jump over 6 feet to reach food but will only do so if they are sure of a clear landing.
What You Should Never Do
- Trapping and removing an animal is not always the solution to the problem. Removing the animal is illegal without the proper permits and only creates an open space for another animal to inhabit. A trapped adult may also leave young behind to die of starvation. Focus on removing the attraction, not the animal.
- Never move young from the wild.
- Never use poisons. They’re inhumane and may be illegal. They can also result in secondary poisoning of other wild animals or pets.
- It’s illegal to keep wild animals, even for a short time. They have special nutritional, housing and handling needs, and inexperienced individuals who try to raise or treat them inevitably produce unhealthy, tame animals that can’t survive in the wild.
Deer Management Program
Each winter, District ecologists conduct aerial surveys to estimate the number of deer in the forest preserves. During the spring and summer, they study plant communities and document the extent of deer browse, especially on rare or protected plants and plant communities. If they can attribute a loss of diversity to high deer densities, they may determine deer-removal efforts are necessary at a given forest preserve.
The District's deer management program operates in late fall and winter under stringent safety guidelines. The District posts warning signs at major forest preserve access points and sends letters to nearby residents. All activity takes place at night, when the preserves are closed, in designated safe zones.
The meat is inspected and processed at a licensed facility and donated to area food pantries. On average, the District donates more than 8,000 pounds of ground venison each year. See our brochure on white-tailed deer and ecosystem management (PDF).
Public Health Concerns
Deer are common hosts for black-legged ticks, which can carry and transmit Lyme disease. Deer do not transmit the disease, but coming in contact with deer can increase your risk of exposure to black-legged ticks.
Deer can also carry toxoplasmosis, which people can acquire after handling or eating contaminated undercooked venison.