Thursday, October 09, 2008

MICHIGAN NEWS: Deer Baiting Ban Upheld

A judge Thursday let stand a ban on feeding and baiting deer in Michigan's Lower Peninsula, ruling the state had authority to issue the emergency rule after its first case of chronic wasting disease was detected.

The decision was a blow for farmers and store owners who sued because they're being hurt financially by the ban. Hunters place piles of bait -- beets, carrots, corn, apples and other produce -- in areas to attract deer.

After hearing arguments, Ingham County Circuit Judge Joyce Draganchuk acknowledged that a number of people earn a living by growing and selling the bait. But she said the Michigan Department of Natural Resources based its decision on "sound scientific management principles."

"It did it for the purpose of preserving deer and elk herd so that those who make their living from it may continue to do so in the future," Draganchuk said of the ban imposed Aug. 26. It's effective for six months and could be extended.

State attorneys defended the policy as a necessary precaution to prevent the spread of the disease.

It wasn't immediately known if the plaintiffs would file an appeal. Their attorney, Ed McNeely argued the ban was arbitrary and said arguments that it would stop the disease from spreading were "vastly overblown." A number of farmers and store owners watched the arguments in a Lansing courtroom.

Mike Kinzel, part owner of Highland Fuel in Hartland, which sells $40,000 to $50,000 worth of deer feed, said afterward that he's concerned the ban could be in effect "forever" if the state doesn't start taking into consideration the overall financial hit to the hunting industry.

The infected deer was discovered at a captive deer operation near Grand Rapids. It's unknown if the disease exists in the wild deer population. Chronic wasting disease attacks the brains of infected deer and elk and produces small lesions that result in death.

It has never been shown to cause illness in humans.

"We are very pleased and felt all along we were doing the necessary and right thing," DNR spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said.

The state adopted a policy in 2002 that called for an immediate prohibition on feeding if chronic wasting disease were detected in either peninsula or within 50 miles of the state line.

Another part of the lawsuit pertaining to whether wildlife rehabilitation facilities can have fawns or not wasn't addressed Thursday.

Source: MLive

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