Tuesday, October 28, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Anger Over Deer Baiting Ban

FRANKENMUTH - Farmers say the state is stealing their livelihoods with a deer-baiting ban to battle a killer disease.

Hunters are up in arms complaining that the state is adding unfair rules for pursuing their game.

More than 70 hunters and farmers gathered in Frankenmuth during a heated presentation Monday from state officials on chronic wasting disease.

Economists estimate that deer bait sales bring in $50 million annually in the state.

Department of Natural Resources officials presented information on the disease and how to prevent its spread during the two-hour meeting at the Wallace and Irene Bronner and Family Performing Arts Center.

An hour-long question-and-answer session aimed heated dialogue from audience members toward the four-person panel.

"You're taking away people's livelihoods," said Roy E. Stolz, a 51-year-old Saginaw County resident. "You're killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer."

Stolz said he raises 25 to 30 acres of sugar beets for deer bait and stands to lose around $25,000 because of the permanent ban.

"They really have no sound scientific evidence," he said.

Stolz said takes umbrage with the ban's timing.

"They could have told us in the spring," he said. "The way they took it away ... it's a little unsettling with me."

Scientists first confirmed the disease Aug. 25, when a 3-year-old doe at a privately operated cervid facility in Kent County tested positive. The state killed the doe and 50 other deer at the facility.

Chronic wasting disease is fatal in white-tail deer, elk, moose and mule deer and spreads through contaminated food, water, feces and saliva.

"There is no cure," said Michael E. Bailey, wildlife management supervisor for the DNR. "It's a death sentence once they get it."

It does not cross to humans.

The DNR implemented a response plan, drawn up in 2002 after a deer in Wisconsin tested positive for the disease, following the state's first, and only, positive test.

Steps include a deer bait ban, quarantine on all private facilities, prohibiting deer rehabilitation and widespread testing.

A surveillance zone also is in place around Kent County. Officials will test 300 deer in Kent County, nine townships in Kent County, and the seven counties surrounding Kent County. In the remainder of the Lower Peninsula, scientists will test 50 deer in each county.

"From that sampling, we should be able to determine with some certainty if the disease has spread," Bailey said. The state's game and fish protection fund provide testing, which costs around $50 a deer. General fund money will supplement the cost.

The DNR ordered the baiting ban to extend for six months starting in August and extended it indefinitely on Oct. 9 after an Ingham County judge upheld the DNR's authority to make the decision.

"We all knew what the outcome would be," said Kevin Kirk, special assistant to the state veterinarian, of people's complaints about the ban. "We are trying to find some avenues for your product."

William R. Adams, a hunter for 52 years, agrees with the ban and preventative measures the state has taken.

"They should have never accelerated it like they did," the 68-year-old Birch Run resident said of baiting. "I've seen people with pick-up loads of apples dump them in a hunting area. I think it's something that needs to be addressed."

Cass City resident Garry F. Gamet said he can understand the anger from farmers who are losing money from deer bait sales.

He does, however, disagree with using bait as a hunting technique.

"Shooting deer in a bait pile is like going to the zoo and shooting animals," he said.

Gamet said a power point slide Monday evening, showing a precipitous dip in the deer population during the next 50 years if the disease is not brought under control, impressed him.

"If we allow baiting, and it (wasting disease) gets into our wild herd, our kids and grandkids will suffer for it," Gamet said.

Source: MI Live

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