This fall, the state Wildlife Commission cast what could be a lethal blow for wildlife and deer hunters in Mississippi. Until October 2018, hunters had to be at least 100 yards from a supplemental feeding station before a deer could be harvested. Effective October 11th, the Mississippi Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks removed any distance requirements, meaning a hunter can legally hunt and harvest deer within 100 yards of a feeder. This is not consistent with Mississippi’s hunting legacy of fair chase and could cost our state millions of dollars.
With the discovery of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Pontotoc and Issaquena Counties, and the frequency that CWD is now being discovered in Mississippi, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation is strongly urging the Wildlife Commission to impose a statewide ban on supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer and other wildlife.
The Wildlife Commission’s decision to allow hunting over supplemental feed, or more appropriately put “shooting-over-bait,” for white-tailed deer is not in the best interest of the health of Mississippi’s deer herd, the ethical sport of deer hunting, and the Mississippi citizens who all share in ownership of Mississippi’s wildlife.
Disease and Hunting Economics
The risks of disease transmission directly from bait is well-documented.
Research indicates that CWD is transmitted through bodily fluids, but most prominently saliva. It is ironic that once CWD was detected in areas of our state, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks banned supplemental feeding and attractants within the counties bordering the 25-mile containment zones, while within this same year the Wildlife Commission also approved hunting directly over supplemental feed in areas of the state that have not discovered CWD yet.
Economic impacts of hunting in Mississippi are estimated to exceed $2.7 billion annually, and how we respond now will strongly affect the well-being of the herd and simultaneously the outdoor industry for Mississippi.
Deer processors are reporting that business is already on the decline this year throughout the state. Hunters are concerned, and we will lose participation in the sport if we do not immediately implement best management practices to control CWD and other diseases.
Implementing regulations that allow the use of supplemental feed to attract and congregate game animals immediately after the discovery of CWD in Mississippi is contradictory to the efforts of our state’s wildlife professionals to control disease and manage wildlife. Mississippi sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts must take a firm stance against supplemental feeding and hunting game over bait.
For decades, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, along with numerous other conservation organizations, have been on record opposing efforts to allow hunting over bait, and the Federation has worked for decades to prevent this unsportsmanlike style of hunting in Mississippi.
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation’s mission is to “conserve Mississippi’s natural resources and protect our wildlife legacy.” Baiting is contrary to the spirit of fair chase; and given that we now know that CWD is in our state, this practice jeopardizes the very foundation of our hunting tradition in Mississippi. The survival of our hunting industry depends upon how the Wildlife Commission chooses to act now. We implore the Commission to share the Federation’s commitment to responsible deer herd management for our state, today and for future generations of Mississippians.