Feed ban to further strain Northern Michigan economy
MICHIGAN — On Aug. 26 the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) imposed a Lower Peninsula ban on feeding or baiting deer due to the discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a captive deer in Kent County.
And in Arenac County, a county with several deer feed vendors, a county where nearly all gas stations sell bags of carrots and sugar beets during the autumn months, the ban isn’t being viewed positively.
“It’s going to hurt us bad,” said Mark Foster , owner of Dean’s Bait and Hunting Supplies of Alger. “In our fall business, I’d say it’s (feed sales) 35 to 40 percent. … I’ve been in business for 20 years on my own and this is the worst year with this economy and then this comes along.”
State Rep. Tim Moore (R-Farwell) also voiced displeasure with the ban, saying he met with a feed vendor who spent $50,000 to stock up on feed for hunting season.
“For the DNR to come out a month before he can actually start selling it and say ‘you can’t do this,’ he’s going to be out $50,000,” Moore said. “I just feel bad for these people.”
But not only feed vendors will feel the sting, according to Foster. He says the sugar beet farmer he purchases beets from will also feel the pain of the ban, since the farmer is contracted to sell only a certain amount of sugar beets to the Michigan Sugar Beet Company per year.
“Now he’s (farmer) got how many acres of sugar beets that he can’t sell to the sugar beet company because he’s contracted for ‘x’ amount?” Foster said, adding he personally will experience more than just a drop in feed sales. “I have talked to at least 20 of my customers and they’re done. They’re done hunting. …. Now I’m not going to sell any archery supplies.
“I think it’s going to have a devastating effect on the economy.”
On Friday, Aug. 29, Foster said he was looking for ways to make up for the loss of sales that’ll be incurred from the ban.
“We’ve been racking our brains for the past three or four days,” Foster said. “I’m very worried about it.”
Mary Detloff, Public Information Officer with the DNR, says the concerns about the ban have reached the department.
“We’ve been hearing from a lot of hunters who are not happy,” Detloff said, adding the DNR is taking steps for safety, though. “This (ban) is designed to stop the spread of this disease.”
Detloff also added the ban is part of an emergency response plan put in place by the DNR in 2002.
Unfortunately for hunters, beet growers and feed vendors, though, there is no timeline on the ban.
“The ban will be in place as long as we need it to be in place,” Detloff said, adding there is no way to predict or guess how long the ban will last.
CWD, the culprit disease responsible the ban, is a neurological disease that causes deer to act abnormally, stop eating and stop fearing humans.
However, even though deer will be apt to not run from humans and allow people to come into close proximity with them, Detloff says humans are not in danger of being suspect to CWD.
“There is no evidence that the disease can be transferred from a deer to a human,” she said. She also added the DNR is recommending hunters not to eat meat from a deer infected with CWD.
To find out whether or not a killed deer is infected, Detloff says hunters should take the deer to check stations.
She also says CWD is spread by deer making nose-to-nose contact with one another, a common occurrence at a bait pile, or deer contacting one another’s feces and urine.
And while the ban doesn’t seem to be going away in the near future, Moore says the Michigan House is addressing the issue on Sept. 9 at committee hearings.
He also says he’s been coming up with compromises that will allow for the DNR to research CWD and deer herds in Michigan while not putting the strain on the state’s economy and tourism that come with hunting season..
Moore says he has thought about reducing the amount of feed a hunter can use for bait from two-and-a-half gallons to one gallon.
“Maybe that will reduce the contact,” Moore said.
He also says he has introduced legislation that will force state departments, such as the DNR, to come before the House before they put programs or policies in place.
For more information on the feeding/baiting ban, visit the DNR’s Web site at mi.gov/dnr.
To get in touch with Moore’s office, call 517-373-8962.