Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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MI: Officials look at easing TB regs

Alpena, Mich. – The Natural Resources Commission will vote Nov.
10 on whether to allow baiting of deer in Presque Isle County and
the southern portion of Iosco County. The consideration comes after
57 counties in the Lower Peninsula achieved TB-free status in
September.

A memorandum to the NRC indicated the DNR and the Michigan
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development have regularly
discussed the need to regulate baiting as part of Michigan’s
overall TB eradication goal while also recognizing the only
feasible means of managing deer populations is by keeping
sufficient numbers of deer hunters engaged in hunting.

Because of public preference to once again allow baiting in the
Lower Peninsula and the challenges to enforcement caused by poor
compliance with the baiting ban, a June 9 decision now allows
baiting in most of the Lower Peninsula on certain dates, in limited
quantities, and with restrictions on the manner of placement.

A complete ban on baiting was retained in Deer Management Unit 487,
which includes Alpena, Alcona, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and
Presque Isle counties. The achievement of TB-free status for 57
counties is impacting discussions on baiting regulations.

The NRC was updated in a Sept. 30 memorandum on the new split-state
status that recognized the new status might impact Presque Isle and
Iosco counties regarding deer baiting. Officials from MDARD have
indicated they would not oppose a reconsideration of the use of
deer bait in those counties, provided that, if the NRC does approve
baiting in those counties, it is coupled with increased
surveillance of deer harvested in that location.

The amendment would allow baiting in Presque Isle County and the
southern portion of Iosco County. Baiting would continue to be
banned in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Oscoda counties.

Russ Mason, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Division, told Michigan
Outdoor News that baiting could potentially be allowed, but not
feeding. He said feeding constitutes regular placement of food in
the same place as opposed to the scattering of bait in a variety of
places.

Mason said feeding, such as for recreational viewing, still poses
more of a hazard of nose-to-nose contact between deer, which is
thought to increase the likelihood of spreading the disease. He
said he doesn’t think baiting necessarily affects the deer
population.

“Whether bait is on the landscape has nothing to do with the number
of deer harvested,” Mason said.

He maintains hunters harvest a set number of deer, but allowing
baiting helps hunters achieve success within the time restrictions
of individual hunters. He estimated 90 percent of hunters have only
four days in which to hunt.

What has made a difference in the deer population in the TB Zone,
Mason said, is last year’s antler restrictions on combination tags,
as well as the decision to allow hunters to use buck tags to
harvest antlerless deer.

“Last year’s overall harvest declined except in the northeast,” he
said.

The MDARD has been cooperating in TB eradication efforts in order
to help protect cattle herds from contracting the disease. Clair
Styma, a cattle farmer in Presque Isle County, said she thinks
baiting will help reduce the number of TB-infected deer.

“I’m in favor of baiting to get rid of some of these deer,” Styma
said.

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