Baiting ban bites growers
DNR mandate to thwart CWD in deer herd has economic impact on farmers
September 03, 2008TRI-CITY AREA — In a state and region that relies heavily on the hunting industry, the Department of Natural Resources' decision to ban deer baiting in the Lower Peninsula will have an immediate impact on local producers of carrots, sugarbeets and other crops used for that purpose.
The DNR announced its decision to ban baiting last Monday, following confirmation that a captive white-tailed deer in a Kent County facility had tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease.
Last Tuesday, U.S. Dept. of Agriculture officials had destroyed about 50 whitetail deer at the breeding facility. The carcasses were transported to Michigan State University for examination.
To further limit the spread of the disease, the DNR has instituted a quarantine of all privately-owned facilities and prohibited the transport of all deer, elk or moose, dead or alive.
DNR officials suggest that because bait and feed sites increase the chance of contamination through contact with the saliva and feces of infected animals, they also initiated an immediate ban on baiting and feeding.
Les Timmer, owner of Timmer Farms on Muck Road, anticipates that producers will soon feel the financial pinch of the DNR's decision; particularly with deer hunting season right around the corner.
"This is a really big deal to us," says Timmer. "The timing is very unfortunate. As it is, it's getting tougher every year to make it in this business. This (baiting ban) is really going to hurt. Deer feed is probably 20 percent of our business."
|Workers at Lindy’s Pre-Pak Carrots maintain a brisk clip in anticipation of a successful season, some of which is reliant on sales to deer hunters. photo by Tom Wearing.|
Timmer is disappointed that the DNR expanded its ban to the entire Lower Peninsula, when the infected animal was discovered at a private facility in the western part of the state.
"I don't think they're going about it in the right way," says Timmer. "This animal was found on a deer farm, not out in the wild.
"The ban should be in Kent County where the animal was found," Timmer adds. "They should go to the source. I'm pretty confident it (CWD) won't be found outside that fenced area."
While the DNR promises to implement a sweeping CWD surveillance and response plan, Timmer wonders if the state agency has the manpower to implement the ban.
"I suppose they can slap a big fine on it," he says. "But I don't know how they're going to enforce it. I don't think they have the manpower."
Gary Brandt, owner of Lindy's Pre-Pak Carrots on North Van Dyke in Imlay City, also fears the impact the baiting ban will have on business.
"We know what's coming down the pike," says Brandt. "The DNR is affecting a lot of people's lives and livelihoods with this decision. With today's costs, this takes a big chunk out of our incomes."
Dr. Jeff Powers of Brown City, an animal expert and supporter of baiting for the purpose of controlling the deer population, thinks the state should have limited the ban to the area where the disease was found.
"The DNR's immediate knee-jerk reaction was to ban it everywhere," says Powers. "This is going to be an enormous loss for businesses.
"I think they could have tempered their decision," he says. "When Wisconsin had a similar problem, they segregated only the areas affected. I don't see why Michigan doesn't consider doing the same."
DNR spokesperson Mary Dettloff says the baiting ban had to include the entire Lower Peninsula because the agency has yet to determine whether CWD has spread to the state's wild deer population.
"We still don't know how that animal got the disease," warns Dettloff. "The ban will be in effect until we know we no longer need it."
Dettloff notes that enforcement efforts will be stepped up in an effort to ensure the disease does not spread to the larger deer population.
"There will be efforts among our conservation officers to increase enforcement," says Dettloff. "Tickets will be issued and fines will range from $50 to $500, depending on the judge.
"There will be people who ignore the ban," Dettloff realizes, "but those who get caught will pay the conseqences. Perpetrators could go to jail for up to 90 days.
She says the DNR is not insensitive to the effect the ban will have on businesses.
"We know a lot of people are not going to like this," says Dettloff. "We want to stress to our hunters that this is necessary to stop this disease from spreading into the wild deer herds. That would have devastating consequences."
Dettloff says the agency has taken note of the more concentrated baiting and feeding bans instituted in Wisconsin and other states, adding that Michigan has a unique problem.
"Western states have been dealing with CWD for decades," she says. "But Michigan is different. The other states don't have the density of white-tailed deer that we have in this state."
Other hunting-related businesses and activities will be peripherally affected by the DNR's decision to ban baiting and regulate the movement of the deer population.
The newly-instituted quarantine will force organizers of the Sept. 5-7 Woods-N-Water News Outdoor Weekend to cancel their live deer exhibit, always a popular attraction at the annual hunting and fishing show.
Tom Campbell, Woods-N-Water News Editor and Outdoor Weekend co-coordinator, believes the entire outdoor community has to share responsibility for helping to eradicate the disease.
"As a result of the DNR's Surveillance and Response Plan, it's regrettable that part of the plan stops the transporting of deer," says Campbell. "As a result, Bill Yoder's live deer show is cancelled for this year.
"For the sake of Michigan," Campbell says, "we're hopeful the plan is successful in stopping the spread of CWD. Or at the very least, prove the diseased deer was an isolated incident in a privately-owned deer facility."
Campbell pointed to Wisconsin's successful response to CWD as a precursor for Michigan.
"CWD is an ugly disease," he says. "We're fortunate we can learn from Wisconsin.
"The disease was found in their deer herd seven years ago," Campbell points out. "Since then, with all their monitoring and steps taken to slow the spread of the disease (including a baiting ban), their infectious rate never passed one percent of the deer herd.
"Let's hope Michigan's deer herd can remain 99 percent healthy."