Bill would end big game feeding in N.D.Hunters who attract big game by putting out piles of feed are the target of a legislative proposal to eliminate baiting, but the law also could affect animal lovers who just like having deer around. Greg Link, an assistant wildlife chief for the state Game and Fish Department, said his agency has not monitored feeding by animal lovers as closely as baiting.
By: By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press, The Jamestown Sun
BISMARCK — Hunters who attract big game by putting out piles of feed are the target of a legislative proposal to eliminate baiting, but the law also could affect animal lovers who just like having deer around.
Greg Link, an assistant wildlife chief for the state Game and Fish Department, said his agency has not monitored feeding by animal lovers as closely as baiting.
“That’s kind of on the fringe of our responsibility,” Link said. “We don’t have a good handle on the number of people who do it and for what species. Obviously, there are people out there throwing out feed.”
The bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Curtis Olafson, R-Edinburg, said the state must do something about such threats as chronic wasting disease and bovine tuberculosis. Those diseases can be spread by baiting or feeding deer, he said.
“If you’re going to be as precise as you can be and as pure as you can be about the science of the risk of disease transfer, the feeding is just as big a risk as hunting over bait,” Olafson said.
Deer in northwestern Minnesota, which prohibits baiting, have tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, and cattle in southwestern North Dakota are being tested for the disease. Olafson’s legislative district borders northwestern Minnesota.
Deer baiting’s potential to spread disease “ought to concern you whether you’re a cattle producer, a wildlife enthusiast or a taxpayer,” Olafson said.
Hunters have been the most vocal about whether the practice should be banned or regulated. Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, introduced a baiting-regulation measure two years ago at the behest of a constituent who was worried about chronic wasting disease.
“To some people, it’s a really simple issue. Either you do or don’t bait,” DeKrey said. “To other people, it’s a real complex issue. You only do it when you’re bow hunting.”
The bill was narrowly defeated in the House. “It got so terribly complicated,” DeKrey said. “I had no idea how controversial it was.”
Willard Swanke, a hunting guide in western North Dakota, said the state should not dictate what can be done on private land.
“I am a landowner and I feel that a little baiting of deer away from my hay stacks to help the deer get through a tough winter is the thing to do,” Swanke said.
The bill would also make it difficult for people with disabilities to have a successful hunt, he said. Swanke’s son uses a wheelchair, and “he shot a real nice deer and antelope last year from a blind,” Swanke said. “If it weren’t for baiting, he would not have been able to do that.”
Olafson said he expects resistance to a baiting ban from guides and bow hunters. Paul Speral, a board member of the North Dakota Bowhunters Association, said recent surveys showed his group is divided.
“Personally, I’m definitely opposed to it,” he said. “If there’s one chance in a thousand to spread any disease because of baiting, the risk is just too great.”
Clarence Bina, a lobbyist for the United Sportsmen of North Dakota, said polling of his group two years ago showed a virtually even split on the issue.
Olafson said guiding and outfitting companies still thrive in South Dakota, Minnesota and Montana, all of which ban baiting of big game.
“I think you can make an argument that if we’re not congregating the deer in one spot at one time, there will be an even greater need for someone who knows the local deer population and its patterns,” he said.
The bill is SB2351.