The following news report was published in Hanna Publishing’s Franklin Sun newspaper today. It only affects three parishes now, but these rules could be spread to other parishes as well. As the article pointed out, Morehouse Parish was affected by feeding bans last year and could be again.
Here’s the latest:
Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission gave final approval to a notice of intent (NOI) July 7 amid objections from legislators, police juries and citizens.
The NOI, with an aim to hinder the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Louisiana’s deer population, will ban supplement feeding and carcass transportation in Franklin, Tensas and Madison parishes.
According to Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Department rules, commissioners did not have to actually make a motion but just introduce it in a regular meeting. LDWF Secretary Jack Montoucet enacted the ban shortly after the meeting.
The ban was initiated when a CWD-affected deer was harvested in Tensas Parish near the Mississippi border. According to Deer Program Manager Johnathan Bordelon, LDWF has developed this NOI over the course of 20 years, mimicking other state’s CWD impediment programs.
The infected deer from Tensas Parish had been shedding and officials did not know if it had infected other deer, according to Bordelon.
“We know that there was some environmental contamination,” Bordelon said. “It had been shedding infectious material into the environment for some time. We did not know where that deer came in contact with the disease and whether or not it spread the disease to other deer in the area.”
The ban has no “sunset” meaning the time it is active could be forever or just temporary.
“Currently, there is no sunset (on the ban),” said Bordelon. “It is going to be left open until we learn more about the disease and conduct surveillance. No, we don’t have a set sunset of so many months or years.”
LDWF has a goal to collect 300 samples this year to obtain more details about CWD. When questioned about how many current samples had been collected, Bordelon said, “Very few samples have been collected” this year.
But, LDWF has collected more than 500 samples in Tensas Parish since 2019 including 96 this past season with only the one CWD-positive case, Bordelon said.
Louisiana Sen. Stewart Cathey Jr. expressed concerned about the negative effects of the ban during the meeting but offered the state’s large number of hunters to help LDWF officials in gathering samples.
“You have got tens of thousands people across the state of Louisiana that could be out there gathering the samples right now,” Cathey said. “If CWD is something that needs to be addressed today then it would be logical to me to use that population to gather your samples tomorrow, not a month from now, not two months from now, not three months from now.”
“Anytime you shut down or slow down hunting you are going to hurt businesses and people’s lives,” Cathey added. “And, that’s real especially as it relates to feeding these animals.”
With the large population of hunters, small businesses around the ban area would be negatively affected, a fact ban opponents have repeatedly vocalized and Bordelon admitted to in his address to commissioners.
“This is a legitimate concern,” Bordelon said of the negative economic impact.
Bordelon called the potential loss of money “significant” but deemed the disease “a threat not only to additional retail sales in the control area but retail associated with economic ties to deer hunting statewide.”
Doyle Robinson of Mangham and a ban opponent, spoke at the commissioners meeting and said he knew businesses owners that would be affected by the supplemental feeding and carcass transportation ban.
“The feeding ban is already having an economic impact,” Robinson said. “It’s not going to have an impact. It’s already having an economic impact which is going to accelerate as hunting season comes about. This NOI is talking about an immediate economic impact. Those people (that are affected) have names. I know them and talked to them. These people have faces to me. I’m asking for moderation.”
Sen. Neil Riser, an avid hunter and opponent of the ban, also attended and spoke at the Baton Rouge commissioner’s meeting.
“We have so many people that come from south Louisiana,” Riser said. “This will have an economic impact on the little feed stores and outdoor suppliers. I would ask you to have consideration when you review and look at the radius.”
Previously, a similar ban was enacted in Morehouse and Union parishes when a CWD-infected deer was found on the Louisiana, Arkansas border. The ban lasted 33 days during deer season. The ban did not cover a 25-mile radius like the current ban but had a seven-mile ban.
“A deer does not know where that state line is at,” Riser said. “We have demonstrated the seven miles already works. Narrow the ban like we did in Morehouse and Union parishes. My people in northeast Louisiana are willing to get any samples and participate 100 percent. At the same time, we would like consideration for the ban to be less restrictive.”
According to Bordelon, during the ban deer harvesting numbers were actually up in Morehouse and Union parishes.
“While we can’t say it had an impact on harvest, we can say is what we observed,” Bordelon said. “The reported harvest in Morehouse and Union parish was not only up, but the highest over the past 10 seasons.”
But Riser argued the numbers were up due to encouraging hunters to obtain samples.
“Those numbers were up a lot because we are all encouraging hunters to go out and get the samples done, so we could go back to where we were at,” Riser said.
In his speech to commissioners, Bordelon recognized the current ban’s size was a “legitimate concern” because it means if a portion of a parish falls within the 25-mile infected radius that entire parish is included in the ban area.
“Which means parts of some parishes are well in excess of 25 miles,” Bordelon said. “(Hunters) felt they were unjustly being put into a control area when they were actually further away in distance from some parishes adjacent to the control area that was not included.”
Additionally, Bordelon gave his reason for the supplemental feeding ban.
“It is the artificial attraction of the deer,” Bordelon said. “Deer have home ranges of a few acres to several thousand (acres) with ranging over their home range in search of food. In the case of bait that is put out, it is putting them into contact with other deer and family groups that otherwise they would not come in contact with.”
Robinson argued Bordelon’s point.
“Banning of supplement feed alone is not going to prevent grouping or herd tendencies,” Robinson said.
Bordelon also highlighted that annual flooding, breeding and feeding are other items that promote group herd tendencies.
At the end of the meeting, Commission Chairman William “Joe” McPherson said by passing the ban LDWF acted “appropriately.”
“I think we acted very appropriately,” McPherson said. “How dumb is it if you would want to wait until you got 10 or 15 cases like Arkansas. The horse was out of the barn. There was no containment.”
The NOI, in part, reads:
•Baiting, placement of bait, or hunting over bait is prohibited within a LDWF designated CWD Control Area.
•The export of any cervid carcass or part of a cervid carcass originating within an LDWF designated CWD Control Area is prohibited, except for: meat that is cut and wrapped; meat that has been boned out; quarters or other portions of meat with no part of the spinal column or head attached, antlers, clean skull plates with antlers, cleaned skulls without tissue attached, capes, tanned hides, finished taxidermy mounts and cleaned cervid teeth.
•Approved parts transported out of the CWD Control Area must be legally possessed. Approved parts must contain a possession tag with the hunter’s name, address, LDWF license number, parish of harvest, date of harvest, and sex of deer.
•Prior to the 2022-23 deer hunting season, LDWF is directed to determine whether there is sufficient capacity to perform taxidermy services for cervids taken within the Control Area and report those findings to the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission. If it is determined that there is insufficient capacity to provide adequate taxidermy services for cervids harvested within the Control Area, LDWF shall establish a permitting system to be in effect no later than the opening of the 2022-23 deer hunting season to allow for uncleaned cervid heads to be transported out of the Control Area solely for taxidermy purposes.