Baiting ban controversy continues on

Gaylord, Mich. – State wildlife officials believe a recent
Otsego County judge’s ruling on the DNRE baiting and feeding ban
changes nothing, and vow to continue enforcement.

But those working to repeal the ban say the decision puts a
“gold star” on a petition drive expected to culminate in Lansing
this fall, when organizers plan to present hundreds of thousands of
signatures in support of the move.

An Otsego County judge last month dismissed a case against Ken
Borton, of Gaylord, who was charged with illegally feeding deer
from his bird feeder in an alleged violation of a DNRE ban on doing
so in the Lower Peninsula.

District Court Judge Patricia A. Morse ruled the ban
“unconstitutionally vague” and questioned if an average bird-feeder
could interpret the law.

“The statute clearly intends to allow bird feeding, but only in
some places and by some methods,” Morse wrote in her opinion. “It
is not clear where or how.”

Kyle Legel, Otsego County prosecutor, did not return a message
seeking comment.

The Natural Resources Commission instituted the baiting and
feeding ban for the Lower Peninsula in 2008 to prevent the possible
spread of chronic wasting disease, which was found in a single
captive deer in Kent County. Many residents and lawmakers have
criticized the DNRE, claiming it overreacted to CWD, but DNRE
officials have stuck to their plan to monitor deer for the disease
for three years before they revisit the issue.

Borton, 53, operates the website snowmancam.com, where visitors can
watch his bird feeders via web cam and donate money for birdseed or
corn.

Alongside the feeders is a large cut-out snowman that often is
visited by bears, deer, squirrels, bobcats, birds, and people from
across the state and country, pictures on the site show.

DNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason said he believes it’s obvious
that Borton’s feeders and website are about much more than merely
feeding birds. He contends Morse’s ruling isn’t in the best
interest of the state’s wildlife, doesn’t impact existing laws
against baiting or supplemental feeding, and will be challenged by
the DNRE.

“If you look at the situation, this is a guy that has been cited
multiple times” for violations of the ban and other infractions,
Mason told Michigan Outdoor News. “It is very clear he wants deer
on his camera and deer on his feeder. There is no question that
this ruling has literally no impact, even in Otsego County, on the
baiting ban.

“We will not stand idly by while wildlife populations are being
potentially impacted,” he said. “I suspect one way or another we
will pursue efforts to get that ruling overturned.”

In the meantime, Larry Reinardy, vice president of the Wildlife
and Business Association, will continue to collect signatures for a
petition to overturn the baiting and feeding ban, because he
believes it isn’t justified by sound scientific evidence, as called
for by Michigan law. The group also has cited concerns about
possible adverse impacts on a deer population that has become
reliant on the food source.

Reinardy described Morse’s ruling as a “gold star” for those in
support of the WBA’s efforts.

“The bottom line is there is a whole group of people, and it’s
not a small group, that are opposed to this ban,” said Reinardy,
who has helped to collect about 200,000 signatures at hunting and
fishing shows, and through a small army of volunteers across the
state.

“It is always about 85 percent people who are in favor of
getting this (ban) repealed,” Reinardy said. “I’m totally amazed at
how many people are just adamant about this, it’s
astronomical.”

Reinardy said WBA officials plan to take their petitions to
Lansing and speak with legislators after the primary, “so we know
who as a politician is in and who is out, and more importantly who
is governor.”

To find out more about efforts to repeal the ban, go to www.mi-wba.com. More information on the
deer baiting and feeding ban can be found on the DNRE website at
www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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