Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Thousands of hunters and owners of small businesses are in turmoil over a Lower Peninsula-wide ban on baiting and feeding of deer that state officials have imposed because of Michigan's first chronic wasting disease case.

State officials want to protect the state's hunter-based marketplace, but critics say the ban threatens autumn's $500 million hunter-based economy.

Deer feed suppliers, hunters and owners of commercial deer facilities packed a state House hearing on Tuesday. More are expected at a Thursday meeting of the State Natural Resources Commission, which is considering an extension of the six-month ban.

"If this ban is not lifted, it puts me in bankruptcy," Saginaw grower-wholesaler Tony Benkert told the committee.

Bart's Fruit Market owner Mark Bartholomew of Houghton Lake, which normally supplies 250 deer feed outlets throughout Michigan, said he laid off 17 workers and will have to cut still more.

"The DNR is playing with a lot of people's livelihood," he said, referring to the Department of Natural Resources, which imposed the ban.

Natural Resources wildlife veterinarian Steve Schmitt told lawmakers allowing baiting to continue would be "like playing Russian roulette with the wild deer herd."

First identified in Colorado 40 years ago, the disease has spread eastward to 11 states and two Canadian provinces. None has been able to eradicate it.
In Wisconsin, where it showed up first in wild deer killed in 2001, the effort has included baiting bans in 26 of 72 counties and hiring sharpshooters to thin the deer herd. Schmitt said scientific models, based on experience in Colorado and Wisconsin, suggest it could wipe out three-fourths of the deer herd over 50 years.

DNR Director Rebecca Humphries imposed Michigan's baiting ban after the Aug. 25 confirmation of the fatal brain and nervous system disease in a doe at a Kent County deer breeding facility. That follows protocols set up in 2002 following the early Wisconsin cases.

The State Natural Resources and Agriculture departments also have slapped quarantines on more than 550 private facilities where deer are raised and kept for hunting, breeding and hobby purposes.

What's at stake is personal for Imlay City-area grower John Morocco, whose 40 acres annually produce 120,000 40-pound bags of carrots and $140,000 in income. That deer feed provides most of the essentials for his family of five. "I've been doing this for 30 years and I've been told we now don't have an income," said Morocco, 54. "I'm worried about how I'm going to feed my family."

The order doesn't prevent Morocco from raising or selling his carrots as deer bait. But his phone isn't ringing off the hook, as has been customary with archery deer season three weeks away and hunters making preparations for the Nov. 15 start of the general firearms season.

South of St. Johns in mid-Michigan, Andy Todoscuik expects a sharp drop in the $40,000 his landscaping-nursery-bakery business usually collects from deer feed sales in the fall. "It'll turn us into a ghost town until Thanksgiving," predicted Todoscuik.

Hunters also are perplexed.

Robert Tobolski and fellow workers at the Warren TACOM plant, who have a hunting club, last weekend removed corn and salt licks from their hunting area near Milford.
"I had a few bucks invested, let's put it that way, so it's kind of upsetting," said Tobolski, 52.

Source: Detroit News


Anonymous said...

I live in central Ohio and we have a fawn who appears to be sleeping alone in our yard (2 acres backed up to small wooded area)at night and is never accompanied by other deer..alone about 5 weeks now. She is also run off by other young and adult deer when they enter our yard..seems to be shunned. Will she survive the winter alone?
I called the wildlife rehab and all they said they would do is put her to sleep if she seems injured or ill. Any suggestions?

Tom Rooney said...

The fawn could survive the winter if it has ample food this fall. It should be able to find food on its own--I would discourage feeding the deer.

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