The emergency ban on feeding deer and hunting over areas that contain bait, supplements and attractants has caused quite a stir this week in Union and Morehouse Parishes where it is in effect. Hunters in other parishes are watching with a wary eye as well. The ban is in response to a single deer found in south Arkansas that tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in the Felsenthal Refuge.
There are many questions and few answers, but the Louisiana Department and Wildlife and Fisheries answered these questions in an exclusive interview with lakedarbonnelife.com
Question: There are a lot of questions about enforcement plans. This is perhaps the biggest concern in this issue for people who actually hunt. Was there a meeting in Monroe to lay out plans for how to enforce this plan? If so, can you share the details? Hunters need to know the details of the rules if they are going to abide by them.
Answer: Enforcement Agents will enforce the emergency action the same as any other regulation. Hunters will not be allowed to hunt over any type of supplemental feed on the ground.
Question: Will hunters be given tickets hunting over areas that have previously been baited and the bait not eaten or removed? Bait can sometimes stay on the ground for weeks.
Answer: Yes, it will be considered a violation to be found hunting over supplemental feed on the ground in Union and Morehouse Parishes.
Question: How can you tell whether bait has been on the ground a day, a week, or three weeks?
Answer: It is irrelevant how long the bait has been on the ground. As of December 6, it is illegal to hunt over areas where supplemental feed is on the ground.
Question: CWD is a serious concern obviously. Has any action like the banning of putting out any kind of food or supplement for deer ever been implemented in Louisiana before?
Answer: Yes, a feeding/baiting ban was implemented in East Carroll, Tensas and Madison parishes after the discovery of a CWD positive deer 5 miles from the Louisiana border in Issaquena County Mississippi on January 25, 2018. Additionally, action was taken in the past to prohibit the placement of raw sweet potatoes for the purposes of hunting game quadrupeds; this rule was enacted in cooperation with Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry to aid in the control of sweet potato weevils.
Question: We have been told that there is a long-standing LDWF plan in place that required stopping of feeding activities within a 25-mile radius of any deer discovered with CWD. This parish-wide ban for Morehouse and Union parishes far exceeds that plan, if this is true. The site this deer was discovered is over 70 miles away from the outer borders of Morehouse and Union. Can you explain why the ban was spread that far and is defined by parish lines?
Answer: The CWD response plan can include surveillance areas adequate to perform necessary sampling efforts and is not restricted to a 25-mile radius. LDWF cannot assume that only deer within a 25-mile buffer potentially have been exposed to CWD. The larger surveillance area also increases the amount of land from which LDWF can sample to attain sampling objectives, while still in close proximity to the possible infected area. Geographic boundaries of some type, parish lines, roads, etc., are required to ensure enforcement is possible.
Question: Who recommended this action to the Commission? Individuals? A department? What led to the decision based on science and experience?
Answer: LDWF’s Wildlife Health and Deer Programs, staffed with wildlife veterinarians and biologists, recommend actions to help slow or stop the potential spread of CWD in case we are CWD positive in this area. CWD is spread by blood, urine and saliva and baiting/feeding bans are standard protocol across the United States to reduce the concentration of deer or other cervids when CWD is found.
Question: Why did Louisiana do this when in Arkansas, where the deer was discovered, there is no such ban in place or any change in hunting requirements?
Answer: LDWF’s plan to discontinue baiting is independent of Arkansas’ plan, as Louisiana has not detected CWD in the state. LDWF’s effort focuses on minimizing risk to the deer population from a known positive.
Question: Has anybody given thought about relief to small businesses in these areas, some of which have invested thousands of dollars in deer feed and attractant stock? And also, the inclusive loss of local tax revenue for parishes already struggling to make it financially?
Answer: DWF’s first charge is to protect and conserve the wildlife resources of the state. CWD is a 100% fatal disease in deer and once it is spread to native herds, it will likely have far more long-term negative effects on Louisiana’s deer population and economy than short- or long- term cessation of deer feeding. More drastic measures, such as total season closures due to high water, or reduced waterfowl season and bag limits, are examples of other conservation measures that can be enacted when warranted to protect the resource.
Question: What effect will removing these thousands of pounds of food have on deer, bears and smaller wildlife that have grown depended on them, especially this time of year? In areas where there are no acorns or berries, what will they eat?
Answer: The question actually highlights the issue with baiting and feeding to begin with. Baiting and feeding wildlife creates artificial conditions, concentrates animals, disrupts natural home range movement, habitat use and population densities. However, wildlife species are resourceful and will adapt to conditions without supplemental feeding from hunters.
Question: Is it true that enforcement agents have been told to look for hunters coming out of the woods, ask them if they had been hunting and then require them to go back in the woods and show them their stand so the enforcement agent can see if they hunted over bait or not?
Answer: It is true that Enforcement Agents will conduct an investigation into the location a hunter has returned from in order to determine if supplemental feed is in the area. This is consistent with standard enforcement of wildlife regulations.
Question: Will additional enforcement personnel be assigned to these areas? For how long?
Answer: Possibly, we will detail as much of an enforcement presence, as needed to ensure that the emergency declaration is adhered to.
Question: This will also cause hog hunters using corn and rice bran to cease to be able to use it in their hog traps. How will negatively impact this much-needed effort to stop the damage these hogs are causing to deer and turkey habitat and people’s personal property?
Answer: No, baiting within hog traps is allowed
Question: There are people who don’t trust the way this is being handled. Some people feel is a veiled effort for two reasons. Please address these. Is this an effort to stop use of corn, rice bran and other additives to attract deer. There are a lot of people against feeding deer to start with.
Question: Feeding deer has been associated with the turmoil caused by the overpopulation of bears in these two areas. It seems odd that the two parishes that complain most about bears/bear damage are suddenly in the middle of this aggressive action. Is there any connection?
Question: What message do you have for the hunters in these two parishes to calm their fears or give them any idea of what lies ahead, good or bad?
Answer: Allow LDWF to do its work and sample these parishes intensively for the presence of CWD. Assist the Department by submitting hunter harvested samples. Hopefully, we will remain CWD negative. Recommendations will be forth coming if we find CWD in Louisiana. LDWF Enforcement will enforce regulations in the best interest of the resource, as determined by the Department and the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. We will recommend removal of the baiting ban if sufficient samples are collected and lab results are returned with no detection of CWD.
You can read the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission Emergency Declaration here: