State Reps. Jim Lower, Tom Barrett and Thomas Albert today introduced a proactive plan to protect Michigan deer from chronic wasting disease.
Chronic wasting disease, a lethal illness that has decimated deer, elk and moose populations in other states, was first identified in Michigan in May 2015. As of March 2018, 57 free-ranging deer have tested positive for the disease.
“Chronic wasting disease is known to spread easily from deer-to-deer,” said Lower, of Cedar Lake. “We must take a more proactive approach to stop its spread in Michigan and protect our healthy, sustainable deer herd.”
The first piece of the three-part plan prohibits the importation of live deer – which includes whitetail deer, elk and moose – into Michigan.
“To prevent the spread of disease, hunters cannot bring bodies of deer they shoot in other states home to Michigan, but importing live deer is allowed,” said Albert, of Lowell. “It’s time to bring common sense to the law and prohibit the importation of all deer – dead or alive.”
The proposed reforms also establish strong health and safety protocols for privately-owned cervids imported before the ban, including a requirement that privately-owned deer, elk and moose farms construct a secondary fence around the perimeter of their facilities. Current law only requires captive deer facilities to have one fence.
“It’s critically important that we take every possible precaution to keep captive deer from coming into contact with wild deer,” said Barrett, of Charlotte. “Single fences simply aren’t cutting it. They allow wild deer to come nose-to-nose with deer on farms. One sick deer mingling with wild whitetails is all it takes to jeopardize Michigan’s hunting heritage.”
The final piece of the plan includes a new fund dedicated to addressing chronic wasting disease in Michigan. People would have the option to make a $1, $5 or $10 donation to the fund when purchasing a Michigan hunting license. The donations would go directly toward research into eliminating chronic wasting disease.
“Hunters have a stake in this. They value the opportunity to participate in one of Michigan’s most treasured traditions, and it all rides on our deer population remaining healthy,” Lower said. “This is a smart solution that allows concerned citizens to help protect a valuable natural resource.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates hunting generates more than $2.3 billion in economic impact in Michigan, including expenses related to food and lodging and $1.3 billion spent on equipment.
The legislation, House Bills 5770-5772, were referred to the House Agriculture Committee for consideration.