State bans deer feeding in CWD area

TWO DOES GRAZE in Iron Mountain. (Theresa Proudfit/Daily News photo)

A state commission has approved an immediate ban on baiting and feeding deer in parts of Dickinson, Menominee and Delta counties to slow the potential spread of chronic wasting disease, which surfaced last fall in Waucedah Township.

Meeting in Lansing, the Michigan Natural Resources Commission set the ban Thursday for the Core CWD Surveillance Area in the Upper Peninsula, which covers about 660 square miles that includes most of the southern half of Dickinson County, much of northwestern Menominee County and a small portion of Delta County around Bark River.

The roughly 10-mile-radius zone is bordered by U.S. 2, M-95 and the Menominee River on the west; M-69 from Randville to Bark River on the north; and U.S. 41/U.S. 2 and Menominee County Road G18 on the south.

The panel Thursday also eliminated antler point restrictions in the same Core CWD Surveillance Area.

The move comes after a 4-year-old doe killed in September on a deer damage shooting permit in Dickinson County’s Waucedah Township tested positive for chronic wasting disease. It was the first documented CWD case in the Upper Peninsula, though the disease has been confirmed downstate in Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties; 26 Wisconsin counties have recorded wild CWD-positive deer as well, plus another seven with farm-raised CWD cases, including in Florence and Marinette counties.

DNR testing on 1,745 deer in the U.P.’s Core CWD Surveillance Area found no additional positives, officials said.

Consistent with regulations in the Lower Peninsula, an exception to the baiting ban will be allowed for hunters with disabilities during the Liberty and Independence hunts, when those who qualify can use 2 gallons at a time of single-bite baits during deer seasons. The deer baiting start date for these hunters can occur five days before and during the second Saturday in September.

According to a DNR news release, “The action came after a thorough review of the best available science on CWD and multiple opportunities for public input.”

CWD is a fatal neurological disease that can afflict deer, elk and moose. Caused not by a virus or bacteria but by an aberrant protein, the disease attacks the brain of an infected animal and produces small lesions that result in death. There is no cure; once an animal is infected, it will die, according to the DNR.

Other hunting changes authorized Thursday for the Upper Peninsula included reinstating the antlerless option during archery deer season for those hunting on the Deer License or Deer Combo License in areas open to antlerless licenses and allowing crossbows to be used in the late archery season in the core CWD area.

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission is a seven-member public body whose members are appointed by the governor. The commission has exclusive authority to regulate the taking of game and sportfish and is authorized to designate game species.

Other major hunting regulations approved for the 2019 deer seasons include:

— A continued ban on baiting and feeding for the entire Lower Peninsula that took effect at the end of January 2019. Again, an exception is allowed for hunters with disabilities during the Liberty and Independence hunts.

— Move the Liberty Hunt to the second weekend in September. Based on this change, the 2019 Liberty Hunt will be Sept. 14-15 rather than Sept. 21-22 as previously scheduled. The early antlerless season — which takes place on private land in select counties — will continue to be the third weekend in September, Sept. 21-22.

— Require that scents used to lure deer, whether natural or synthetic, be placed so deer can’t have any direct physical contact.

— In Lower Michigan, add Barry, Lenawee and Midland counties to the CWD Management Zone, where additional regulations will apply.

— Also in the Lower Peninsula, set a four-point antler point restriction, or APR, for all deer and deer combo licenses for Mecosta, Montcalm and Ionia counties. This is part of an experiment to determine the effects of APRs on deer populations in a CWD area. Require that established department goals for managing antlerless deer be achieved if this experimental APR is to continue.

— Require that roadkill deer collected with a salvage permit can’t be removed from the county where the animal was killed, to prevent potential spread of CWD.

“We hope that by setting these specific CWD regulations we can limit the movement of this disease in Michigan,” said Vicki Pontz, NRC chairwoman. “We appreciate all the comments we have received from across the state. Michigan hunters are very passionate about deer and deer hunting, and I look forward to working with them as we continue to confront this threat to wildlife and our valued hunting tradition.”

The public will have an opportunity to hear about the new regulations next week in the region. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Western Citizens Advisory Council will discuss a range of items when it meets from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Eastern time Thursday in the Turtle Room of the Island Convention Center, W399 U.S. 2 in Harris.

The NRC had four CWD public listening sessions in May and June — one each in Alger and Houghton counties and two in Menominee County — focused on the proposed regulations.

Public comments also were taken online, by mail and during NRC meetings in May, June and July and at Upper Peninsula Citizens’ Advisory Council meetings in May and June.

More than 175 people attended the special CWD public listening sessions, while more than 235 comments were received via email.

“We want to thank the hunters and others who took the time to attend a public meeting or write an email and share their ideas about how best to strengthen Michigan’s wildlife populations for future generations,” Pontz said.

CWD first was discovered in Michigan in a free-ranging deer in May 2015. To date, more than 60,000 deer in Michigan have been tested for CWD and it has been confirmed in 120 free-ranging deer in the state.

More information about the new deer hunting and baiting regulations will be posted in next week to the Michigan.gov/CWD webpage. Questions can be directed to the DNR Wildlife Division by emailing to DNR-Wildlife@michigan.gov or by phone at 517-284-9453.