Commissioners shouldn’t allow baiting on southeast red Tag farms

When the Pennsylvania Game Commission board members meet in
April, they have a chance to correct a big mistake.

During commissioners’ January meeting, preliminary approval was
given to a motion allowing hunters to use bait on certain areas in
the southeast region of the state. Baiting will be allowed during
any of the deer seasons on farms enrolled in the agency’s Red Tag
program. Farms enrolled in the program are given a specific number
of antlerless permits that can be used from Feb. 1 to May 15 and
July 1 to Sept. 28.

And yes, deer hunters hunting Red Tag farms will be able to bait
then as well.

The move was made to increase the deer harvest on the Red Tag
farms. No doubt baiting will draw in the deer, the same way they
are attracted to a pile of corn dumped in the woods during the

But it’s a bad idea, one that could be devastating to the deer
herd not only in the farms, but throughout the region.

The purpose of baiting is to attract deer to a particular spot.
Concentrating deer in such a manner increases the risk of disease,
and right now the risks are great.

Chronic wasting disease – which has devastated deer herds in
several states, was found last year in Maryland, just 10 miles from
the Pennsylvania border. There’s a good chance the disease is here,
and if it is the last thing we want to do is concentrate deer over
bait. According to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance,
concentrating deer by artificial feeding increases the likelihood
of transmission between individuals. The infectious agent can be
passed through contact with the ground or between deer.

It doesn’t matter how out-of-hand the deer population is in the
southeast, increasing the risk of CWD through baiting is not a wise
way to manage wildlife.

But CWD isn’t the only disease that can be spread by
concentrating deer. Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease and tuberculosis
are two others.

Even the risk of rabies can be increased through baiting.
Recently, a deer killed by a hunter in Chester County tested
positive for rabies. The disease is spread through contact, and
like CWD and EHD — baiting will only increase the risk.

Deer aren’t the only species that can be impacted by baiting.
Piles of corn or other attractants will likely draw in just about
anything, including raccoons, foxes, skunks and other wildlife that
can carry rabies, distemper and mange.

In a Game Commission brochure entitled “Please Don’t Feed the
Deer,” it states that turkeys drawn to bait piles can spread
another deadly disease called aspergillosis.

“The spread of disease within and among species is encouraged by
repeated and prolonged contact at feeding sites,” the release

In the end, a legal bait pile in the southeast can become a
deadly magnet for many species of wildlife.

There is yet another reason why the board’s move to allow
baiting doesn’t make sense. The Red Tag farms have large numbers of
deer that need to be reduced. By allowing baiting, the agency is
basically creating a means to attract even more deer to areas where
they are trying to get rid of them.

Beyond that, the agency has correctly prohibited baiting in all
other areas of the state, but yet they feel it’s worth the risk in
the southeast.

I understand the pressure that the Game Commission is under to
reduce deer numbers in the southeast. Still, no matter how bad the
situation is, the area needs to be managed soundly and ethically.
The “anything goes” approach is a dangerous one, and it could turn
extremely deadly if baiting is allowed.


Categories: Pennsylvania – Tom Venesky

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