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

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

VIRGINIA NEWS: Deer Feeding Now Illegal

Effective September 1, it will be illegal to feed deer statewide in Virginia. The prohibition runs through the first Saturday in January (January 3, 2009). The regulation designating the prohibition went into effect in 2006.
This regulation does NOT restrict the planting of crops such as corn and soybeans, wildlife food plots, and backyard or schoolyard habitats. It is intended to curb the artificial feeding of deer that leads to negative consequences.

Problems with feeding deer include: unnaturally increasing population numbers that damage natural habitats; disease transmission, including tuberculosis as well as many deer diseases; and human-deer conflicts such as deer/vehicle collisions and inappropriate semi-taming of wildlife.

In addition, feeding deer has many law enforcement implications. Deer hunting over bait is illegal in Virginia. Prior to the deer feeding prohibition, distinguishing between who was feeding deer and who was hunting over bait often caused law enforcement problems for the Department.

Deer Feeding was Booming Along with the Population

Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) Deer Project Coordinators Matt Knox and Nelson Lafon noted when the regulation first took effect that for more than twenty years the practice of feeding deer had expanded across the eastern United States among both deer hunters and the non-hunting general public. The most common reason for feeding deer is to improve their nutrition and to supplement the habitat's ability to support more deer; in other words, to increase the carrying capacity for deer.

According to Knox, many people feed deer because they believe it will keep them from starving, but this is not a legitimate reason to feed deer in Virginia. In Virginia, deer die-offs due to winter starvation have been almost nonexistent and according to Lafon, "We do not need more deer in Virginia. In fact, we need fewer deer in many parts of the state."

Nelson Lafon completed a revision of the Department's Deer Management Plan in June 2007. Based on his research, it appears that the citizens of the Commonwealth would like to see deer populations reduced over most of the state. Lafon noted that Virginia's deer herds could be described as overabundant from a human tolerance perspective and stated that feeding deer only makes this overabundance problem worse.

Is Your Bird Feeder Attracting Deer?

Supplemental feeding artificially concentrates deer on the landscape, leading to over-browsed vegetation, especially in and around feeding sites. Over-browsing destroys habitat needed by other species, including songbirds.

It is not unheard of for deer to take advantage of bird feeders and begin to eat spilled birdseed. Individuals who inadvertently are feeding deer through their bird feeders may be requested by VDGIF conservation police officers to temporarily remove feeders until the deer disperse.

Deer Are Wild Animals

In their natural state, deer are wild animals that have a fear of humans because we have preyed upon deer for thousands of years. However, when deer are fed by people, they lose this fear, becoming less wild and often semi-domesticated.

Fed deer are often emboldened to seek human foods, leading them into conflict with people. Despite their gentle appearance, they can become lethally dangerous during mating season capable of goring and slashing with their sharp hooves and antlers. There are numerous cases across the country of individuals injured, and in some cases even killed, by deer they treated as pets.

People often treat the deer they feed as if they own them, even going so far as to name individual deer. Not only does this association diminish the "wildness" of "wildlife", it also leads to a mistaken notion regarding ownership of wildlife. Deer and other wildlife are owned by citizens of the Commonwealth and are managed by the Department as a public resource.

Deer Feeding Congregates Animals, Increasing the Spread of Disease

The increase in deer feeding that has taken place in Virginia over the past decade now represents one of Virginia's biggest wildlife disease risk factors. According to VDGIF Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Jonathan Sleeman, deer feeding sets the stage for maintaining and facilitating the spread of disease.

According to Dr. Sleeman, diseases are a big issue in deer management today across the United States. Feeding deer invariably leads to the prolonged crowding of animals in a small area, resulting in more direct animal to animal contact and contamination of feeding sites. Deer feeding has been implicated as a major risk factor and contributor in the three most important deer diseases in North America today. These include tuberculosis, brucellosis, and chronic wasting disease (CWD). Fortunately, none of these diseases have been found in deer in Virginia, although CWD is present in West Virginia, less than 5 miles from Frederick County, Virginia.

Please Don't Feed Deer

It is clear that the negative consequences of feeding deer outweigh the benefits. If you are not feeding deer, you should not start. If you are currently feeding deer, you should now stop. Feeding deer is against the law between September 1 and the first Saturday in January. If anyone sees or suspects someone of illegally feeding deer during this time period, or observes any wildlife violations, please report it to the Department's Wildlife Crime Line at 1-800-237-5712.

Source: Twin County News