deer

The crackle of gunfire can be heard today across Michigan as the state’s firearm deer season opens.   

For the first time in three years, hunters in the Lower Peninsula are legally using piles of food to lure deer. Deer baiting was temporarily banned after a Kent County deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease in 2008. The ban was lifted earlier this year after no more deer tested positive for the disease.   

Dean Molnar is with the Department of Natural Resources law enforcement division.  He says baiting can be effective if done properly.   

“I think in some particular areas it will be beneficial for folks to be able to see deer and harvest them…especially in areas where (the deer) have minimal habitat," says Molnar.   

Something else new this year, hunters are getting younger. The state is permitting ten and eleven year olds to hunt deer, as long as they are accompanied by an adult. The previous age limit was twelve.

Jerry Oldenettel / Flickr

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan wildlife biologists say two deer in Cass County have been diagnosed with an often-fatal viral disease.

The deer tested positive for epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD.

The Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday the disease is transmitted by a biting fly. It causes extensive bleeding. Infected deer lose their appetite and fear of humans, grow progressively weaker, develop a high fever and finally lose consciousness.

It's not believed that humans can get EHD.

DNR wildlife chief Russ Mason says there is no known way to treat or control the disease. Michigan has had several deer die-offs from EHD as far back as 1955. The latest covered six counties last year.

Mason says outbreaks are happening more frequently, possibly because climate change is driving the biting flies farther north.

schick / Morgue File

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has lifted the deer-baiting ban in most of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.  The ban had been in effect since 2008 after cases of chronic wasting disease had been reported among Michigan deer.

Mary Dettloff is with the DNR. She says baiting can create problems for the health of deer herds:

Tee Poole / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has lifted a ban on putting bait out for deer. From October 1st through January 1st the practice will again be allowed in most counties in the lower peninsula.

Baiting will not be allowed in Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties - the state's six county area known as the  Bovine Tuberculosis Zone.

Officials at the Michigan DNR put the baiting ban in place in 2008 after biologists found the state's first case of Chronic Wasting Disease in a deer at a private deer breeding facility in Kent County.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal brain disease similar to mad cow disease, can be spread from deer to deer through saliva and blood. The disease started out west in elk and made its way into some Midwestern deer herds. Wisconsin had to cull big herds of deer to get the disease under control.

Banning a practice such as baiting, a practice that brings many deer together in one spot as they eat or lick the bait, was thought to be the best way to prevent the spread of CWD in Michigan - apparently, it worked.

From the Michigan DNR press release:

At the time, the Department followed protocol as outlined in the state's emergency response plan for CWD and immediately banned baiting and feeding of white-tailed deer in the Lower Peninsula. The NRC then passed regulations making the ban permanent, but said it would reconsider the ban in three years, giving the DNR adequate time to perform disease testing and surveillance in the state for CWD.

In the three-year period, the DNR tested thousands of white-tailed deer for CWD, but did not detect another case.

So in a 4-3 vote by the Natural Resources Commission, the three-year old ban was lifted. It will be reconsidered in 2014.

In the Grand Rapids Press, Howard Meyerson writes that hunters have been split on the issue. Around half in favor of baiting and half against it. Meyerson writes that in 2008, many hunters were glad the ban was put in place:

They said it altered deer behavior and pulled deer off their lands and onto others where people baited. That, in turn, prompted them to resort to “defensive baiting.”

On the flip side, however, others are crowing.

“The good guys won,” said Jeff DeRegnaucourt, an avid hunter from Rockford who was glad to see the ban lifted.

But the nation’s top professional wildlife biologists probably wouldn’t see it that way. Mason is one who steadfastly urged keeping the ban in place. Steve Schmitt, the DNR’s wildlife disease expert, was another.

(Photo by Scott Bauer - USDA)

Baiting deer is the subject of lots of debate in Lansing this month. There’s a ban on feeding deer in the Lower Peninsula that could be lifted in June. The restriction was a response to the discovery of chronic wasting disease in one deer in 2008. But as Peter Payette reported for The Environment Report no more sick animals have been found and the pressure is growing to let hunters bait wild deer.

The state’s Natural Resources Commission holds a discussion today on deer baiting. The commission is set to decide in June whether to lift the baiting ban in the Lower Peninsula. Wildlife biologists say feeding deer causes them to congregate unnaturally, and that it helps spread disease.

But Don Inman – a retired conservation officer – thinks some baiting is okay. He says large feed piles are a problem, but a small amount of bait is not.  

"From my experience and all of my friends too who have hunted in this area and hunted when baiting was legal, we seldom saw more than four deer. We put out a coffee can and spread it around. "

The state banned deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula in 2008 after a deer in Kent County tested positive for chronic wasting disease.

Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Michigan's soon-to-be Director of the Department of Natural Resources, Rodney Stokes, says he wants more people to hunt and fish in the state.

Stokes was named director of the department by Governor-elect Rick Snyder earlier this month.  Snyder announced he would be dividing the Department of Natural Resources and Environment into two agencies: The Department of Natural Resources and The Department of Environmental Quality.

Stokes told The Detroit News that he wants to expand the focus of the department's recruitment efforts and that he has no plans to increase license fees.

The Associated Press reports:

Revenues from the sale of hunting and fishing licenses were $45.3 million in the most recent budget, said Sharon Schafer, the department's assistant division chief for administration and finance. That's down from 2005 when adjusted for inflation.

Deer
Noel Zia Lee/Flickr

Tuesday is the final day for a Michigan fall tradition….firearm deer season.

Brent Rudolph is Deer and Elk Program leader for the Department of Natural Resources and Environment.  He says deer season got off to a slow start two weeks ago. But, he says:

We have heard talk that both that first weekend…and the long Thanksgiving weekend…having a decent number of hunters. 

Rudolph says it will be next Spring before a final estimate for the number of deer harvested during the past two weeks will be known.  

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