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E-M:/ Agriculture runs Deer Wildlife Management

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org

Alex Sagady said (almost 2 wks ago):
Sounds to me like the U.S.  Dept. of Agriculture and Michigan
Dept of Agriculture calling the shots on wildlife management
in Michigan.......   and   "junk science" from MDA saying that
a few deer that may meet over a bait pile [and of course
don't meet elsewhere] are going to spread tuberculosis and will make a
significant difference.... give me a break!

Since a lot of bow hunters hunt over bait, this will decrease
the deer kill, increasing populations and making it more likely for deer-car
and exacerbating the underlying agricutlure-driven problem on all of
eating at farmer's fields.

My response: Well, Alex, I think you are wrong on this one!  The evidence is
very strong that deer congregating over bait and particularly over "deer feed"
(read 1 - 2 tons of sugar beets, hay, carrots, etc) are spreading bovine TB.
Deer are by nature browsers, grazing on plants individually, and spread over a
fairly wide area at any one time.  They do not normally come nose to nose the
way domestic livestock do, and it is that nose to nose contact that is
evidently creating this unique problem.  I say unique because Michigan is the
first place in the world where bovine TB is being found to be transmitted at
an epidemic level among wild deer.  

We are also one of the very, very few places in this country that allows
baiting at all.  You talk to people in other states and they are astonished
and horrified that  we allow hunters to take a 1/2 ton pickup truck load of
bait out into the woods a week before hunting season, dump it on public
property (also known as illegal dumping if it weren't associated with hunting)
then come back and  set up their blind to shoot the deer over the pile.  One
of the big debates in the last few years was over whether to limit the amount
of bait anyone could use to a 5 gallon bucket per site, which would have at
least limited the amount to something more reasonable, while allowing the use
of some bait. Ironically, the amount of bait used in Michigan has been so
massive over many years that there is some evidence that it does not provide
much advantage anymore.

Places that don't allow baiting don't suffer from people not being able to
"get" their deer.  The huge amount of food being given by people to deer is
aggravating the problem of numbers that survive through winters, particularly
the relatively mild winters we have had in recent years.  Stopping feeding
entirely may help dramatically to reduce deer/car collisions, much more than
any benefit from hunters who are sitting over bait piles.  I have never
understood the "sport" of hunting over huge piles of bait -- it seems akin to
a cat sitting at a bird feeding waiting for songbirds to land.  

In this case, I am very glad that the USDA forced the NRC to do the right
thing on this -- the political pressure from both some hunters and many people
who regularly feed deer throughout the winter has been intense, but this is
far too serious a problem to be subjected to the political winds.  In this
case, the "sound science" was on the side of the USDA, from everything I have
seen.  NOW, all we have to do is to get forest and wildlife managers at the
state, private reserves and the fed forests to stop producing an excess of
summer range for deer, and we'll begin to get a handle on their unbelievably
high numbers.  But we won't readily deal with the fact that these adaptable
animals love our suburban lifestyles and land uses, and thrive in the suburbs
throughout Michigan, in ever increasing numbers.

Anne Woiwode

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