USDA wildlife service deer cull program makes some Michigan


Mar 11, 2001
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Plan to use hired guns to harvest deer is making sportsmen uneasy

By Judy Toomey, Cadilla News Staff Writer

March 26, 2002

CADILLAC — Government employees wearing night-vision goggles, carrying guns equipped with silencers and shooting deer on Michigan farms under the cover of darkness.

It’s a image that’s making some sportsmen nervous — and one the U.S. Department of Agriculture is trying to combat.

Last year, the USDA’s Wildlife Services Program launched an effort to help combat the spread of bovine tuberculosis, a disease which also infects deer and is threatening Michigan’s cattle industry.

The initiative allows farmers within a 30-mile radius of areas where outbreaks of the disease have occurred to request a bovine TB control permit allowing them to eradicate deer on their properties outside of the traditional hunting season.

Farmers unwilling or unable to harvest the deer themselves are given the option of having the Wildlife Services Program provide hired guns to do the shooting.
While the program was originally intended primarily to combat bovine TB in the northeastern Lower Peninsula, where the most cases have been reported, farmers in other areas where bovine TB-positive deer have been reported — including Osceola County — also are eligible to participate.

The program has come to the attention of the Michigan United Conservation Club, which is planning a special meeting at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Hillman Community Center in Hillman, near Alpena, to seek answers from the USDA and Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

“We’re trying to get information as to what is going on,” said MUCC spokesman Dennis Fox. “A number of clubs have contacted us about rumors. They’re hearing about sharpshooters harvesting deer. Any time you have to hire people to harvest deer, obviously it raises concerns for our membership.”

Pete Butchko, state director of the Wildlife Services Program, said concerns are being blown out of proportion.

“There are some suspicions we are doing this in an uncontrolled fashion, like a SWAT team, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” said Butchko.
In fact, since the eradication program was implemented last spring, only two farmers have sought assistance from the USDA. A total of six deer have been harvested, Butchko said.

He believes the rumors about night-vision goggles and guns equipped with silencers began because the department may have used those tactics to eliminate some captive deer from a Presque Isle deer farm where an outbreak of bovine TB occurred.
Whenever bovine TB is discovered in a cattle herd or among captive deer, the entire herd is depopulated, Butchko said.

In the case of the Presque Isle farm, most of the captive deer were simply shot. However, a few became wary and resisted slaughter, posing difficulties for the officials.
“I honestly don’t know if we used night-vision enhancement or not,” Butchko said.
Butchko indicated the harvests are conducted by USDA staffers. Most will take place in spring, before groups of deer have dispersed for the summer. Harvests won’t be conducted during hunting season in order to avoid conflicts with hunters, Butchko said.
He indicated it is the intent of the program to focus on mature animals. “Younger deer are not as likely (to have bovine TB). Our intent is to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease between cattle and deer, so we would avoid fawns and look at mature animals,” Butchko said.

Farmers who obtain the bovine TB control permits also can do the shooting themselves, or seek assistance from friends or family members.
“We are just one option producers can use to help eradicate the disease in Michigan,” Butchko said.

For more information about Thursday’s meeting, contact the MUCC at (517) 346-6487.
Farmers who would like additional information about the eradication program may call the Michigan Department of Agriculture at ((517) 336-1928.


Well-known member
Aug 13, 2001
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Six deer that could have gone to six families.  If they want them dead, they should extend the season or increase limits.

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