Deer-baiting ban lifted in Michigan

Detroit Free Press, June 9th, 2011

LANSING - Michigan's wildlife policymakers today voted to end a ban on baiting and feeding of whitetail deer in most of the state's Lower Peninsula.

The 4-3 vote by the Natural Resources Commission means baiting will be legal again in most of the Lower Peninsula from Oct. 1 to Jan. 1. The exception is a northeast section where bovine tuberculosis remains a problem, including Alcona, Alpena, Iosco, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Presque Isle counties.

Bait could be "scattered" but not "piled" and the amount of bait could not exceed two gallons at any one hunting site.

The debate isn't over, however. The commission also voted to revisit the ban in three years, if not earlier.

Baiting and feeding have been banned in the Lower Peninsula since August 2008, when a deer with chronic wasting disease was found at a captive breeding farm in Kent County.

No other cases have been reported. That led some to push for ending the ban, which was instituted to prevent deer from spreading diseases to each other while eating highly concentrated piles of food left by hunters and others.

The new plan also would allow people to feed deer for recreational viewing year-round except in the bovine TB zone.

Policies that allow limited baiting and feeding in the Upper Peninsula remain in place.

Hunters have long been divided over baiting. Some advocate it in part because they say it increases their chances of a successful hunt. Others consider baiting to be unethical and say it has encouraged deer to feed at night, when they cannot be hunted.

Some commissioners noted today that the ban has been difficult to enforce.

"This is a very controversial and emotional issue," said John Madigan, a Natural Resources Commission member who voted in favor of lifting the ban.