Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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DNR pursues farmed cervid legislation

Associate Editor

St. Cloud, Minn. Under legislation currently being drafted by
state agencies, farmed cervids elk and white-tailed deer in
Minnesota could become solely regulated by the Minnesota Board of
Animal Health.

Mike DonCarlos, DNR research manager in St. Paul, said his
department now shares responsibility with the BAH to monitor deer
and elk farms. Most deer farms are considered game farms and fall
under the auspices of the DNR. Most elk farms are registered with
the BAH.

But, DonCarlos told attendees at the 2003 Wildlife roundtable
held in St. Cloud last weekend, new, extensive legislation could,
for the most part, remove the DNR from game farm involvement.
However, he said conservation officers of the DNR still would be
able to inspect game farm records.

Involved in developing language for the legislation have been
groups such as the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the
Minnesota Deer Breeders Association, and the Minnesota Elk Breeders
Association.

“We want to try to get a consensus before we bring this
forward,” DonCarlos said.

One regulatory agency and one set of rules would simplify the
situation regarding cervid farms, he said. Sole oversight of these
farms would require increased staff size and funding for the
BAH.

There’s likely to be much more to the legislation than who
monitors game farms. DonCarlos said several other items are under
consideration, including the following.

Mandatory testing of cervids for chronic wasting disease. An elk
on a farm in central Minnesota tested positive for the fatal brain
disease last year. Several of the state’s deer and elk farms
already participate in a monitoring program;

It could make permanent the temporary rule that bans the
importation of cervids from herds exposed to CWD or from a
CWD-endemic area. Furthermore, imports must come from herds that
have taken part in CWD monitoring for at least three years;

As of Jan. 1, 2004, fences on deer and/or elk farms would be
required to be at least 96 inches (8 feet) high;

New restrictions would be placed on deer feeding;

A surcharge would be added to deer licenses to pay for “big game
health management”;

Hunters would be prohibited from bringing whole deer or elk
carcasses to Minnesota from other states;

Finally, the legislation would grant the DNR “statutory
authority” to conduct special hunts. Right now, DonCarlos said, the
DNR is limited by the state Legislature regarding the months in
which hunts can be held.

In Wisconsin, state officials have used a variety of methods to
greatly reduce the number of deer in an area where CWD has been
found. The state has used “sharpshooters” who have harvested deer
using night vision equipment, deer have been killed during the
summer months, and free permits were issued. DonCarlos said the
legislation would give the Minnesota similar abilities should CWD
be found in the wild deer herd.

DNR reinforces stance against big game

shooting preserves’

Attendees at the roundtable asked DNR officials how they’d react
should legislation regarding big game shooting preserves (canned
hunts) be brought forward again this session.

Tim Bremicker, Division of Wildlife chief, said the DNR would
continue to officially oppose such legislation, qualifying the
opposition by pointing out a commissioner for the agency has yet to
be appointed.

“I don’t know the position of the current administration, but I
believe (opposition to shooting preserves) will be maintained by
the department,” Bremicker said. He said current opposition is
based on evidence that suggests shooting enclosures increase the
transmission of disease. Furthermore, the enclosures can lead to
the “privatization” of wild herds.

Public perception is yet another consideration, Bremicker
added.

“I want people (non-hunters) to support hunting,” he said.
Support for the constitutional right to hunt and fish in Minnesota
during the 1998 election demonstrated state residents (though most
people don’t hunt) support the activity and that “we’re doing it
right,” Bremicker said. “We can’t get to the point where people
think it’s unacceptable. And clearly, we do not want to put the
Minnesota deer herd at risk.”

How did spinning-wing decoys affect waterfowling?

DNR Wildlife Division Director Tim Bremicker said this month
state officials will learn, based on a study conducted this fall,
just how effective motorized spinning-wing decoys are for duck
hunting.

“Early indications are they’re twice as effective (as standard
decoys),” Bremicker reported at last weekend’s Wildlife roundtable
in St. Cloud.

Bremicker said concerns lie not only in the number of ducks
taken, but whether the decoys are pulling in locally reared ducks
or migrants, and which species.

Minnesota restricted the use of the motorized decoys during the
first week of the duck season this past fall. Other states have
implemented full bans of the decoys.

“I hope the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will listen to states
and respond accordingly,” Bremicker said.

The Minnesota survey was led by researchers from Louisiana State
University.

Doves on the platter?

Some wildlife groups in Minnesota want to place a mourning dove
hunt on the legislative platter this year, making it possible for
fresh dove breasts to be on the plates of hunters in the near
future.

The DNR’s Ed Boggess, along with Kevin Auslund, of the Game and
Fish Coalition brought the hunt to the attention of attendees at
the Wildlife roundtable.

There hasn’t been a dove hunt in the state since 1942, Boggess
said, even though there have been numerous attempts to create a
dove hunt in recent years.

Boggess said that while there’s no biological reason not to hunt
doves, a migratory bird that’s federally classified, most attempts
in the Legislature have been “half-hearted.”

“It’s just a matter of committing to it,” he said. “But we’ve
always had bigger battles.”

Boggess said an organized effort would be needed to secure a
dove hunt, and that supporters should expect hurdles. In Iowa, the
governor vetoed a bill for a dove hunt. And in Wisconsin, opponents
were able to at least delay a hunt through legal action.

Jeff Hodges, of Missouri, who works with the Dove Sportsmens
Society, as well as Quail Unlimited, said doves are the “most
widely hunted game bird in North America.” Doves are hunted in 38
states by about 1.3 million hunters, he said. Hodges said surveys
indicate the average daily bag for dove hunters is 4 to 41/2 birds,
and that it takes about five shots to harvest just one.

Officials want more

surveillance on WMAs

Wildlife officials say illegal use of all-terrain vehicles on
wildlife management areas continues to be a problem.

Jim Breyen, Wildlife’s regional supervisor in Bemidji, says lack
of enforcement makes dealing with habitat destruction by ATVs
difficult.

“It isn’t just a fall hunter situation,” he said. “There also
are summer mud runs.’ “

A limited number of conservation officers, along with several
vacant CO stations, hinders enforcement. Breyen said surveillance
equipment would enable officials to identify violators more
easily.

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