Wisconsin Assembly expected to pass deer baiting/feeding ban bill June 21

Wisconsin’s last serious line of defense against the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) could disappear tomorrow, Wednesday, June 21, if the Assembly passes AB-61, the deer baiting and feeding ban bill.

The Senate passed the bill last week. If the Assembly passes the bill, then the last step in eventually lifting the ban in CWD-affected counties is a signature from Gov. Scott Walker.

Rep. Rob Swearingen, R-Rhinelander, said on June 20 that he was still torn on this issue one day before the vote. Swearingen has CWD-positive deer in his district at a Three Lakes game farm. Swearingen said he understands the disease risks and also understands that sportsmen have supported statewide deer baiting and feeding bans at recent spring fish and game rule hearings.

“The struggle for me – what drives me crazy – is that grandma can’t put corn out forever. Forever is a really, really long time. I guess I probably will support the bill,” he said.

Christian Plata works in the Madison office of Rep. Beth Meyers, D-Bayfield.

“If it’s on the (Assembly) floor, they have the votes for it. They can easily have five or six of their vulnerable members stay off the bill and still pass it,” Plata said.

Under AB-61, a deer baiting and feeding ban is required in any county where a CWD-positive deer is found, but that ban may not last longer than three years unless another CWD-positive deer is found during that time.

The bill also covers bovine TB.

Currently, any county within 10 miles of the diseased deer also gets a baiting and feeding ban. Under AB-61, that would still occur with discovery of a diseased deer, but the ban would be limited to two years in adjoining counties.

Right now, 43 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties have a ban.

Recently retired DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management Director Tom Hauge said this change would be bad news for disease management.

“It’s increasing the risk factor, making it easier for the disease to get established before it can be detected,” said Hauge, noting that the DNR is not testing at a level high enough to locate diseased deer.

If the Assembly passes the bill, Hauge said citizens’ only recourse would be to flood Walker with veto requests by phone, email, and mail.

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