Thursday, September 04, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Baiting Banned Following CWD Discovery

When the baiting ban was announced following last week's discovery of chronic wasting disease in a deer in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources and newspapers got many calls and e-mails from angry hunters.

Most thought the DNR had overacted and predicted a reduction in hunter numbers, and some said they would hunt in other states. One man fumed that he would hunt in Illinois, failing to recognize that baiting is illegal in that state and 23 others.

Explaining why the ban covered the entire Lower Peninsula rather than just Kent County, where the sick deer was found, DNR big game specialist Rod Clute said the agency was simply following a CWD action plan approved six years ago by the DNR, the Agriculture Department and the Legislature.

"We'd rather say no to baiting in the Lower Peninsula now than find out later that we should have said no. This deer is the first, and we're hoping we've found an ice cube rather than an iceberg," he said.

Here are the DNR's answers to some questions hunters have asked.

Will things like salt blocks, mineral licks and attractants like C'Mere Deer be legal?

No. Anything that's designed to draw a deer to eat or lick it is banned. Attractant scents like doe urine and doe-in-estrus are legal.

Some people like to feed deer just to view them, not to hunt. Is that still legal?

No. And food put out for other wildlife, like turkeys, is legal only if it is made inaccessible to deer.

Why isn't baiting banned in the Upper Peninsula?

The CWD plan says that baiting will be banned if an infected deer is found within 50 miles of either of Michigan's peninsulas. The Kent County deer was 250 miles from the UP.

Food plots are still legal. Aren't they just as likely to spread disease as bait?

Many studies have shown that concentrating bait in piles is far more likely to spread deer disease than food plots. The science is sound on this. In addition, the DNR has no control over agricultural practices and can't legally stop people from growing crops.

Bait is still being sold by a lot of stations and mom-and-pop stores. Why doesn't the DNR just ban the sale of bait?

Once again, the DNR has the authority to regulate the method and manner by which we hunt deer. It doesn't have the authority to regulate commerce and tell stores what they can sell. It's up to the hunters to end those sales by refusing to buy bait.

I see deer licking each other all the time. Won't that spread disease?

Deer are social animals and tend to move in groups of three to eight that usually are related, and they do lick each other. What bait piles do is draw in a lot more unrelated deer and increase the amount of contact between them. Bait piles also increase the amount of urine and feces dropped in a small area. Just as a hospital full of sick people is a good place for humans to pick up an infection, a bait pile that draws sick deer is a way to increase the chance of disease spreading among animals.

If I unknowingly eat venison from a deer with CWD, can I catch the disease?

CWD infects deer species that include whitetails, mule deer, elk and moose. Other mammals, including humans, apparently are immune. However, erring on the side of caution, scientists recommend that people avoid eating meat from a deer known to be infected with CWD or that they think may have the disease.

They've found a couple of dozen dead deer along the Clinton River in southeast Michigan in the past couple of weeks. Could they have died from CWD?

The DNR is investigating those deer deaths, but tests so far have ruled out CWD, bovine tuberculosis or any other known disease. Biologists are awaiting the results of toxicology tests to see if the deer were poisoned by something in their environment or in the water.

Source: Detroit Free Press


Anonymous said...

A question I've never heard asked or answered; "If CWD is most likely transmitted by close contact such as nose to nose contact or close feeding such as bait piles, why haven't any other of the Kent Co. pen deer been infected by the single diseased deer, such that it was necessary to ban baiting 4-5 counties away?"

Tom Rooney said...

This is a completely reasonable question, and I probably cannot provide a satisfactory answer for you. Note, however, that CWD can remain latent in the soil, infecting deer months or years later. Please visit the CWD Alliance page for more information.