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home : news : news August 23, 2017

8/8/2017 7:30:00 AM
Bill limiting length of feeding ban signed into law
Deer feeding and baiting ban still in place in Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties
Dean Hall/Lakeland Times

Governor Scott Walker signed into law last week a bill which would put a sunset on a feeding and baiting ban enacted in any county within a 10-mile radius of the CWD positive test.
Dean Hall/Lakeland Times

Governor Scott Walker signed into law last week a bill which would put a sunset on a feeding and baiting ban enacted in any county within a 10-mile radius of the CWD positive test.

Beckie Gaskill
Outdoors Writer

Feeding and baiting of deer has been a hot topic in the Northwoods for some time. In 2015, a deer in a Three Lakes deer farm tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) or Bovine Tuberculosis (BT), and as per the state's law at the time, a feeding and baiting ban was enacted in any county within a 10-mile radius of the CWD positive test. This meant Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties were under a feeding and baiting ban that would last indefinitely.

That changed last week, however, when Governor Scott Walker signed into law a bill which would put a sunset on that ban. In any county where CWD was found, if no positive tests for the disease came back for a period of 36 months, the ban will be lifted. In a county affected by the ban, but only by being within the 10-mile radius of the finding, the ban can be in place no more than 24 months after a test positive for CWD or BT.

Some say this flies in the face of all existing science, which points to unnatural concentrations of deer as a transmission source of the disease. CWD can be transmitted through bodily fluids of deer (direct contact) or (indirectly) through contact with a contaminated environment. There is evidence CWD prions can remain viable in contaminated soil for years and can also be taken up into plants growing in that soil. By feeding and baiting deer in the same place continually, any infection present could conceivably be passed to more deer than would usually be affected. Many, including the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, believe the possibility of a feeding and baiting ban being lifted if no more deer test positive for CWD is a disincentive for hunters to have deer tested. Very few deer are being tested already, and this sunset law on a feeding and baiting ban will only serve to drive that number lower, they said. This will provide even less information on the disease on which to make management decisions.

"Four major deer hunting organizations are against this," said George Meyer, executive director of Wisconsin Wildlife Federation. "This isn't just my comment. The Wisconsin Conservation Congress, Whitetails Unlimited, the Quality Deer Management Association and the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation all asked the governor to veto the bill. All of the wildlife health experts that looked at the bill said that the two- and three-year period is very insufficient in assuring that there is not additional chronic wasting disease in the wild deer herd in Wisconsin." Meyer said the Conservation Congress also put the question out to their County Deer Advisory Committees (CDACs), and three-quarters of the CDACs were also against lifting the ban on baiting and feeding in those counties impacted by CWD. He also said the DNR did not testify at either of the public hearings for this bill. The department policy, he said, is that they will not testify if the author of the bill or the chairman does not ask for the department to be there.

Many Northwoods hunters and wildlife viewers, however, have also expressed their displeasure with a ban on feeding and baiting. Some hunters feel as though having the ability to bait deer levels the playing field and is the "only" way to be assured of bagging a deer during hunting season. Residents who have fed deer in their yards for viewing purposes for years were also unhappy with the ban, feeling they should have the right to feed wildlife for viewing purposes. Some other groups supported the sunset bill as well.

"Whitetails of Wisconsin supported the sunset bill on baiting and feeding," said Laurie Seale of Whitetails of Wisconsin. "When CWD is found on a deer farm, the disease can be controlled behind the fence. The breeding farms are usually depopulated, and therefore there is no need to enforce a ban on baiting and feeding. Many times, disease is used for the wrong reasons. CWD has been and will be continued to be used to take away private property rights of sportsmen. Whitetails of Wisconsin is glad to see a bill supporting private property rights of sportsmen."

In 15 counties, this new law means the ban on feeding and baiting has been lifted as of last Friday. In 28 more counties, however, including Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties, the ban will remain in place.

Last fall, according to DNR spokesperson Tami Ryan, three more cases of CWD were found on that same farm in Three Lakes. For Oneida, Vilas and Forest counties, this means the feeding and baiting ban will be extended until the fall of 2019. If another case were to be found this year, for instance, that would extend the ban until 2020, Ryan said. The sunset resets with each new positive found.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bjoki@lakelandtimes.com.

Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, August 11, 2017
Article comment by: Lori Chiolino

Not one wild deer has been found to have CWD in the counties surrounding this game farm. It is only this game farm that has CWD & I applauded the passage of the bill. We should have free will on our own properties. These game farms that spread the disease within their closed pens should be banned. As to why this farm is allowed to continue? They make thousands of dollars allowing rich people to kill a fenced in deer. The owners of the "farm" never have a comment. The DNR allows neighbors to turn against neighbors anonymously turning each other in. It's abhorrent.

Posted: Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Article comment by: Michael Soletski

Why wasn't the game farm in Three Lakes closed when the original CWD was found? Baiting and feeding was banned, but the farm was left to continue and now more cases were found. Who is paying for this farm to stay open? If the DNR is serious about control, why would you leave the source to continue. Someone must answer this question now and be responsible to the public. Close this farm now and investigate why it was allowed to continue after the first event.

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