La Grange Scout learns five deer call Westchester prairie home
Ed Miller from La Grange, second from left, leads fellow Boy Scouts in his project to count and study deer in the Wofl Road Prairie in Westchester. | Photo courtesy of Ed Miller
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:42AM
LA GRANGE — A La Grange Scout became a census volunteer, but what he was counting were deer.
The Eagle Scout candidate found an increase of five deer in the Wolf Road Prairie preserve in Westchester.
“I’ve been interested in nature my whole life and have been working with the Save the Prairie Society for a couple of years,” explained Ed Miller, a senior at Nazareth Academy in LaGrange Park.
The 17-year-old enlisted fellow Scouts from Troop 33 at St. Francis Xavier Church in La Grange to observe sectors of the 80-acre prairie twice a day for five days, concluding Aug. 15.
“We looked for scat and bones and tried to get a good estimate of how many deer are there and where they’re eating and sleeping,” Miller said. “It does take a lot of work and responsibility getting everybody together.”
Observations from 8 to 9 a.m. and again from 7 to 8 p.m. were fruitful. About half of the troop’s 22 members agreed to help with the census in shifts of three or four volunteers.
“We found a bunch of deer. There were two new fawns, two does and a young buck,” he said. “It was really exciting to see they’ve been reproducing and they’re healthy.”
The Scouts made some of their observations from the wide back porch of a nature center at the north end of the prairie, north of 31st Street. At other times they set out through prairie grasses more than 5 feet tall.
“One time we got to within 15 feet of a single doe. She stared at us and her tail went up, which is a sign of warning for other deer when they hear or see something,” Miller said. “We got pretty close. Then she bounded away into the cattails.”
Miller said he decided to take on the deer census to gauge the animals’ health and habits for the prairie society’s goal of preserving the ecosystem. Results will be reported to officials of the Cook County Forest Preserve system, which adjoins the prairie on the south side of 31st Street.
Knowing where deer feed and how many there are help examine their impact on plant life and soil, said Rita McCabe, a volunteer for the prairie society.
“Ed’s study gives us an important starting point in answering these questions, as well as the effect of coyotes on the deer population,” McCabe said.
Although biology has been one of his favorite classes at Nazareth, Miller said he’s leaning toward a career in aviation and becoming a pilot. He plays on the school’s lacrosse team, will serve this year on a liturgy preparation committee and oversees a group meeting with the elderly at Bethlehem Woods Retirement Center.
“I learned a lot about leadership in gathering evidence, sending emails, creating the observation charts and doing the scheduling,” he said. “This will definitely help with doing reports in college.” .~