Baiting, feeding ban in DNR's proposal
Madison A DNR-proposed statewide, year-round ban on deer feeding and baiting is expected to draw the most heat when the Natural Resources Board (NRB) meets in Racine on Tuesday, June 25.
NRB members are to meet at 1 p.m. that day at the Radisson Inn Harbor Walk in Racine to take action on a chronic wasting disease (CWD) emergency rule package from the DNR. That package was approved by DNR Secretary Darrell Bazzell on the morning of June 14. There were whispers a week earlier that the package would include a statewide, year-round baiting and feeding ban, but it wasn't until Bazzell signed the "green sheet" that it became official.
"I would think it is (going to be) the most controversial part of the emergency rule," said Herb Behnke, NRB member from Shawano. "I'm getting quite a few calls over it already some people are saying the congress doesn't speak for them, others are saying that we don't need the ban statewide."
Behnke is one of seven NRB members who will have to vote on the emergency rule package on June 25. NRB chairman Trig Solberg of Minocqua was not available for comment at press time.
The DNR's proposed feeding and baiting ban comes on the heels of the Conservation Congress' request for a three-year moratorium on deer baiting and feeding. Congress chairman Steve Oestreicher of Harshaw told NRB members of that position during the board's May meeting.
Since then, the state's Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) has come out in support of the DNR's efforts to fight CWD, and the Wisconsin Bowhunters' Association also has come out in favor of a statewide baiting and feeding ban.
"While there are still many unknowns, the QDMA believes that decisive action must be taken to prevent further spread of the disease," said Brian Murphy, QDMA executive director.
"The preponderance of evidence suggests that CWD could spread more quickly (if) deer are concentrated at artificial feeding sites," Murphy said. "We support the statewide ban on supplemental feeding and baiting, at least until we can be convinced the threat of the disease has passed."
Oestreicher understands that the hunting public is split on the issue of baiting and feeding.
"We're just asking for a three-year moratorium. It's only temporary. We can look at it again down the road if the board were to support it now," he said.
Behnke noted that if the board approves the DNR package, or some form of it, any baiting and feeding ban would only last through this year's hunting season.
"Then my understanding is that the board would have to take action to make it a permanent rule, but even that would be up for legislative review after two years," Behnke said.
In the meantime, NRB members are being lobbied from several different directions on allowing some form of baiting and feeding outside of the CWD area. Some legislators have floated the idea of a reducing the bait limit to six gallons while creating a feeding limit also at six gallons.
If the NRB approves the DNR rule package as proposed, the rule includes language that would continue to allow bear baiting, but would require all bait to be placed in a hole, or hollow stump, and covered with a rock or log to make the bait inaccessible to deer. Most bear hunters already set up bait stations in that fashion.
Feeding of birds and small mammals would not be stopped as long as the feed is inaccessible to deer.
The rest of the rule
The DNR also developed other special proposals to address CWD. The rule would create two CWD management zones for hunting regulations: an Intensive Harvest Zone that includes an Eradication Zone (EZ); and a larger CWD Management Zone that extends out about 40 miles from the center of the infection.
Within the Intensive Harvest Zone, including the Eradication Zone recommendations include:
Deer numbers be reduced to as close to zero as possible in the EZ;
Sharpshooting by DNR employees be allowed in the EZ;
Landowner shooting permits be allowed in the EZ;
Aircraft be used for drives and shooting in the EZ;
Landowner shooting from tractors be allowed in the EZ;
Shooting from vehicles be allowed by DNR employees in the EZ;
The EZ could expand if additional CWD deer are found;
A gun season running Oct. 24 through Jan. 31;
An archery season Sept. 14 through Jan. 31.
No separate muzzleloader season.
Within the CWD Management Zone, recommendations include:
The population goal within be 10 deer per square mile of range for all deer units and partial units in this zone;
Gun season Oct. 24-27 (same period as Oct. Zone T); Nov. 23 through Dec 15 (same periods as nine-day gun season, plus muzzleloader plus Dec Zone T); Dec. 21 through Jan. 3 (Christmas week though end of regular archery season);
Archery hunt will run Sept. 14 through Jan. 3;
There will be no separate muzzleloader season.
"These proposed rules are based on the best science available and reflect our recommendations that the best approach to controlling CWD is to drastically reduce the deer population in and near the infected areas," Bazzell said. "We must do all we can to stop the spread of this disease."
The DNR is recommending an earn-a-buck system in order to achieve the level of herd reduction that is needed in both zones. Hunters will be allowed to earn multiple bucks. Hunters also can earn buck permits during the summer in the ongoing landowner permit program in the Eradication Zone.
Deer removal permits will continue to be issued to landowners in the Eradication Zone. There would be no limit on the number of deer killed. Harvested deer would have to be registered at a designated registration station
For a full text of the rule proposal, go to the DNR web site at www.dnr.state.wi.us#.