Compliance good in U.P.’s CWD area

ESCANABA — Compliance with a baiting ban in the U.P.’s Core Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Surveillance Area was good, according to a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer.

2019 marked the first whitetail deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula with the new no baiting rule in the surveillance area. Whitetail deer season began in the U.P. with archery season starting on Oct. 1 and concluded with late archery season on Jan. 1.

The Core CWD Surveillance Area comprises some 660 square miles — defined by major roadways within portions of Menominee, Delta and Dickinson counties — around the site where one doe tested positive for CWD in Dickinson County’s Waucedah Township in 2018.

According to Lt. Ryan Aho of the DNR’s Baraga office, no official numbers are in on the number of tickets issued within the core area, but it is pointing towards few — if any — issued.

In July 2019, a series of deer hunting regulations aimed at slowing the spread of chronic wasting disease were approved by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission in Lansing. The regulations include a ban on baiting in part of the central U.P. designated as the Core CWD Surveillance Area. 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.

CWD is a fatal disease of the brain and nervous system 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, and once an animal is infected it will die.

The case surrounding the cause of the ban was the first confirmed case of the fatal neurological disease in the U.P., and no additional cases have been confirmed in the peninsula.

Aho explained the core surveillance area falls into DNR law enforcement districts one and two.

District one serves Baraga, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Marquette, Menominee and Ontonagon counties.

District two serves Alger, Chippewa, Delta, Mackinac, Luce and Schoolcraft counties.

Aho said he talked with different ranking officers from those districts that patrolled the areas of the core area to see if they had given or had known of other officers giving out tickets within the core area pertaining to baiting.

“Everyone I talked to had not given tickets for baiting,” he said. “There was a high level of compliancy in the core area.”

He noted he isn’t completely sure if no tickets were written or not, as he had not heard back from every officer. He added he had requested data pertaining to baiting violations in the core surveillance area from Lansing, but is awaiting to hear back.

According to Aho, many of the conservation officers noticed a trend of hunters relocating.

“Activity was way down on public land in the core area,” he said.

Hunters who had previously hunted the public land within the core CWD surveillance area moved to hunt public land not within the area.

“There was more activity where they could bait,” he said, adding it made sense for people who wanted to continue to bait to move a couple miles to public land outside of the restricted area.

The core CWD surveillance area encompasses land within three counties, but not the entirety of those counties, in the Upper Peninsula.

Aho explained if hunters wanted to continue to bait while they hunted, they could still do so on public land within the same county.

“People who wanted to bait, relocated to areas in the counties where they could,” he said.

There was also a slight hiccup when it came to patrolling for baiting violations.

According to Aho, a plane that was to be used to fly over the area looking for baiting violations ended up breaking down at the very beginning of hunting season and was not able to be utilized.