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Animal Lovers Hope Archdiocese Halts Killing Of Deer At St. Casimir Cemetery; 'What They Should Be Doing Is Tranquilizing ... And Relocating Them'

CHICAGO (CBS) -- How's this for an attention-grabbing headline: the Chicago Archdiocese kills deer. While factually true, there's more to this story.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory reports it all started with a viewer tip from an animal lover who walks the grounds of a Catholic cemetery.

"There's a difference between a wild animal and a tame one," said former hunter Rich Franks.

He visits his four-legged friends every day at the Archdiocese of Chicago's St. Casimir Cemetery at 111th and Pulaski.

"They'll take a slice of bread right out of your hand," he said of the deer that roam the grounds.

They're city dwellers you might not expect.

"It's very special to see these beautiful animals in the cemetery," said Tammy, who asked us not to use her last name.

Daily deer visitors at St. Casimir became alarmed when they stumbled on brush piles. They thought someone was using them to prey on the animals for sport.

"I looked over to my left amongst the graves, and there was a deer laying there on its side with its foot up in the air," Franks said.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese assured CBS 2 no illegal hunting is going on at the cemetery, which made us ask about lawful hunting. That's when we discovered deer are being killed on this property, by licensed professionals with permission from the church.

"Lay your loved ones to rest here, but let us kill the beautiful animals that are walking around. How right is that?" Tammy said.

The herd is apparently too big, causing safety issues, but when CBS 2 asked about specific examples, we weren't given any by the Archdiocese.

Instead, we were referred to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. IDNR lists property damage and vehicle accidents involving deer as some the biggest problems with deer in urban areas. Those are also the state justifications for "deer management" – the term for lethal and non-lethal methods of regulating deer population.

"The [cemetery] manager told me that they had complaints that the deer poo all over the graves," Franks said.

Whatever the problem, the animal lovers thought of a solution.

"What they should be doing is tranquilizing the deer and relocating them," Tammy said.

"Look at their eyes. They're so beautiful. How could you kill them?" Franks said.

Coincidentally, Chicago Animal Care and control was at the graveyard on Thursday. A spokesperson said the officer was patrolling for coyotes. She said CACC worked to help the cemetery in the past with its deer issues.

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