Baiting ban set in U.P.’s CWD area

LANSING — A series of deer hunting regulations aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease were approved Thursday by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at its regular monthly meeting in Lansing. The regulations include a ban on baiting in part of the central U.P. that is being monitored for chronic wasting disease.

Officials said the action came after a thorough review of the best available science on CWD and multiple opportunities for public input.

CWD is a fatal neurological (brain and nervous system) disease found in cervids (deer, elk and moose). The disease attacks the brain of an infected animal and produces small lesions that result in death. There is no cure; once an animal is infected, it will die.

Last year, a deer tested positive for CWD in southern Dickinson County. The area is being monitored for CWD and numerous deer taken during the 2018 deer hunting season were tested. No additional cases were found.

Thursday, the commission agreed to allow baiting and feeding in the Upper Peninsula except for a ban, effective immediately, in the Core CWD Surveillance Area. This core area comprises some 660 square miles, defined by major roadways within portions of Menominee, Delta and Dickinson counties around the single case of a CWD-positive deer found last year in southern Dickinson County. Consistent with regulations in the Lower Peninsula, there is an exception to the baiting ban in the U.P. Core Area for hunters with disabilities during the Liberty and Independence hunts.

The commission also agreed to continue a ban on baiting and feeding in the entire Lower Peninsula that took effect at the end of January 2019. There is an exception to this ban for hunters with disabilities during the Liberty and Independence hunts. Qualifying hunters are allowed to use 2 gallons at a time of single-bite baits during deer seasons.

“We hope that by setting these specific CWD regulations we can limit the movement of this disease in Michigan,” said Vicki Pontz, NRC chairperson. “We appreciate all the comments we have received from across the state. Michigan hunters are very passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to confront this threat to wildlife and our valued hunting tradition.”

In addition to the regular opportunities for hunters and others to get information and share ideas about wildlife management and hunting regulations, the NRC and DNR offered and promoted a number of additional public forums specifically aimed at discussing proposed CWD regulations. Those opportunities included:

– Dedicated time for public comments during NRC meetings in May, June and July and at Upper Peninsula Citizens’ Advisory Council meetings in May and June.

– Four CWD public listening sessions in May and June – one each in Alger and Houghton counties and two in Menominee County – focused on the proposed regulations.

More than 175 people attended the special CWD public listening sessions, while over 235 comments were received via email.

“Public input is an extremely important part of any discussion surrounding the care of Michigan’s natural resources,” Pontz said. “We want to thank the hunters and others who took the time to attend a public meeting or write an email and share their ideas about how best to strengthen Michigan’s wildlife populations for future generations.”

The public will also have an opportunity to hear about the regulations next week. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Western Citizens Advisory Council will discuss a range of items when the panel meets at the Island Convention Center in Harris. The meeting will be from 6 TO 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 18 in the Turtle Room at the convention center, located at W399 U.S. 2 in Harris.

New business items include a U.P. deer regulations update, a marketing video for the DNR’s Forest Resources Division and a Forest Development Fund review.

The public may participate in the meeting during two public comment sessions.

Chronic wasting disease first was discovered in Michigan in a free-ranging deer in May 2015. To date, more than 60,000 deer in Michigan have been tested for CWD and it has been confirmed in 120 free-ranging deer in nine Michigan counties: Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm.

Other regulations approved at Thursday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting include:

– Move the Liberty Hunt to the second weekend in September. Based on this change, the 2019 Liberty Hunt will be held Sept. 14-15 instead of Sept. 21-22 as it was previously scheduled. The early antlerless season – held on private land in select counties – will continue to be held the third weekend in September (Sept. 21-22).

– Change the deer baiting start date for hunters with disabilities who meet specific requirements. Baiting for these individuals can occur five days before and during the second Saturday in September.

– Require that scents placed to entice deer, whether composed of natural or synthetic materials, be placed so that they are inaccessible for consumption by deer and placed in such a manner to prohibit any physical contact with deer.

– In the Upper Peninsula, reinstate the antlerless option during archery deer season for hunters hunting on the Deer License or Deer Combo License in areas open to antlerless licenses.

– Also in the Upper Peninsula, eliminate antler point restrictions in the Core CWD Surveillance Area, and allow the use of crossbows in the late archery season in the Core Area.

– In the Lower Peninsula, add Barry, Lenawee and Midland counties to the CWD Management Zone, where additional regulations will apply.

– Also in the Lower Peninsula, implement a 4-point antler point restriction across all Deer and Deer Combo licenses for Mecosta, Montcalm and Ionia counties. This is part of an experimental APR to determine the impacts of APRs on deer populations in an area of known CWD occurrence.

– Require that established department goals for management of antlerless deer be achieved, if this experimental APR is to continue.

– Require that deer collected with a salvage permit as a result of collision with a motor vehicle may not be removed from the county where the animal was killed to prevent potential spread of CWD.