The Natural Resources Commission voted 4-3 Thursday, June 9 in favor of lifting the current ban on deer baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula.
The ban was enacted in 2008 as part of the state’s Emergency Response Plan for chronic wasting disease (CWD) after the detection of a CWD-positive deer in a privately-owned facility in Kent County.
At that time, the NRC made an informal commitment to review the baiting and feeding ban after allowing the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) three years to test and monitor for CWD.
“In 2008 when the NRC voted to make the baiting ban permanent in the Lower Peninsula, they said they would revisit the issue in three years, allowing the department to test several thousands of deer for CWD,” NRC Chairman Tim Nichols stated in a press release.
In those three years, not one deer has tested positive for CWD.
While maintaining the baiting and feeding ban would be the most cautious and biologically justified approach to prevent the spread of diseases such as CWD, the NRC also took into consideration the social science implications of the ban, as well.
During public hearings over the last three months, the NRC has seen a public preference to once again allow baiting and feeding. Some testified that baiting is useful for capturing the interest of younger hunters, as well as retaining current hunters who don’t have the time to track a deer for days.
Meanwhile, others complained of those who did not comply with the deer baiting and feeding ban, which punished those who did follow the rules as they did not see as many deer.
In a form of compromise between biological and social science, the NRC decided to allow baiting and recreational feeding once again in the Lower Peninsula except in those areas considered to be in the Bovine Tuberculosis zone. Baiting and feeding will continue to be prohibited in Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties.
Meanwhile, baiting and feeding will be allowed in the rest of the Lower Peninsula provided that hunters follow certain restrictions.
Hunters may place any type of bait — no more than 2 gallons at a time — across a 10-foot-by-10-foot area per hunting location from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. However, the DNR is also requesting that those who bait do not place bait repeatedly at the same point on the ground and only place bait out when they are actively hunting to prevent the exposure and spread of disease.
As for recreational feeding, property owners may place 2 gallons of feed on their property within 100 yards of their residence year round.
The NRC has placed a three-year sunset on these regulations — meaning they will revisit the issue again in 2014 to determine if any changes need to be made.
Meanwhile, the NRC is also hoping to work with the state Legislature to strengthen the penalties for baiting violations.