Mississippi Wildlife Federation
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation expresses great concern over proposed legislation to amend SECTION 49‑7‑31 of the MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972 to allow the hunting of deer and/or other wildlife species over bait.
For these purposes, we consider bait to include any food-stuff or ingestible material, or other artificial attractant that is currently defined and restricted by state statute, that has been deposited, scattered, piled, delivered by a passive or active feeder or feed delivery system so as to constitute an attractant, lure or enticement to wildlife and to influence the movement of these animals for the purpose of harvest by hunters.
We recognize that the issue of feeding/baiting wildlife (especially white-tailed deer) is complex. We understand the dilemma presented by the current ambiguity of the law, and the difficulty of enforcing current law. We understand the pressures and frustrations that law-abiding hunters face when neighboring landowners feed and/or bait deer. Under current statute, feeding is not restricted in any way, and the fine line between what constitutes a “feeding” program and what constitutes “baiting” can be vague and depends upon subjective interpretation in many cases (ie., distance from “feed” that an individual may hunt, etc.) However, we believe that amending current law to allow indiscriminate baiting that may include piling of bait, scattering on trails or in concentrated locations without protection from the elements, etc. would have the following harmful implications:
- Jeopardize the tradition and sport of hunting in Mississippi
We believe relaxation of restrictions that would allow hunters to harvest game animals with the aid of bait will further widen the opinion and perspective gaps between citizens who support and participate in the sport of hunting and the citizens who do not hunt but also do not oppose the sport. The non-hunting, as well as the anti-hunting publics, will view hunting with the aid of bait as unethical and inappropriate. This will serve only to further compromise our efforts to perpetuate and preserve our hunting tradition in the face of increasing public sentiment against the sport. Additionally, the use of bait by hunters may increase the incidence and severity of illegal harvest, including bag limit violations, gender and antler size violations. Such illegal harvest will have implications not only upon the property upon which the action takes place, but can have a detrimental effect upon surrounding properties that lie within the normal home range of the game animals. Such impacts could be detrimental to the management efforts of these adjoining landowners/managers. Moreover, the use of bait is contrary to the spirit of fair chase, and the majority of both the hunting and non-hunting publics consider such use of bait as unethical.
- Create biological and wildlife population problems
The increased density of game animals at, or in the vicinity of, bait sites will increase the likelihood of wildlife disease transmission. The risk of disease transmission directly from the bait is well documented, as target and non-target wildlife ingest wet, moldy or fungus infected grain or other feedstuffs. Such acceleration in the speed and efficiency of disease transmission will affect many species, and can potentially result in epidemic situations in wildlife populations. Additionally, there is potential increased predation that will be facilitated by these aggregations of game animals, both through the density increase and the increased exposure that results when prey species are lured out of protective cover.
- Create habitat problems that pose significant threat to long-term sustainability of the wildlife and forest resources.
Supplemental feeding and baiting has the potential to artificially increase animal populations above natural carrying capacity of the habitat. Such artificially high populations invariably result in habitat degradation and, long-term, reduction in carrying capacity. Like the disease implications, the effects of habitat degradation will have a landscape level impact, and could affect a broad array of both plant and animal populations.
We stand firmly upon our February 6, 1993 Resolution, HS-7: “Hunting Over Bait.” In this resolution the implications of such action are clearly articulated, and we affirm our dedication and support of legal and ethical hunting, fishing and trapping. Further, we share the concerns articulated by the Wildlife Division Technical Staff of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
Since 1993, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation has been on record in opposition to the legalization of hunting over or with the assistance of bait. We reiterate that stance in our continued public opposition to the use of bait to aid in the harvest of game animals by hunters. The Federation cannot support passage of legislation during this session that would relax current law on hunting over bait.
However, we do acknowledge the dilemma resulting from recent dramatic increases in the use of feed by landowners and managers. Consequently, we support and recommend that the legislature establish a task force composed of the best expertise available from the agency, academic, private and public sectors to study these issues and prepare a set of recommendations for future legislative consideration. Such a strategy would ensure that the legislature is best positioned to adequately address the issue, apply the best scientific and pragmatic knowledge and insight, and best serve the needs of the people and the wild natural resources of the state of Mississippi. Such an endeavor could successfully bring consensus to the various constituency groups involved in this issue, without the risk of compromising our resources, our reputation and our tradition of hunting in Mississippi. We stand ready to assist in this endeavor in any way possible.
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation bases its position on this and other natural resource issues solidly upon credible science and sound wildlife, fisheries and natural resource management principles. We exhort the Mississippi Legislature to make the same commitment to responsible application of science-based principles of wildlife management and wildlife/human interactions.
To Whom It May Concern:
This letter is intended to state Audubon Mississippi’s position on the passing of any law that would permit the legal baiting of game for hunting purposes. Audubon Mississippi is opposed to the passing of any legislation that would legalize the baiting of game for hunting purposes due to the potential negative impacts of these practices on both target and nontarget species. Audubon Mississippi supports the position statement set forth by the Mississippi State Chapter of the Wildlife Society concerning the baiting
of game for hunting purposes.
Strawberry Plains Audubon Center
285 Plains Road
Holly Springs, MS 38635
Mississippi Wildlife Society
The Wildlife Society Mississippi State Chapter Position Statement On The Baiting and Artificial/Supplemental Feeding of Game Wildlife Species Baiting of wildlife by the public is usually done for the express purpose of luring or attracting wildlife for hunting. Artificial or supplemental feeding is often done for the purpose of baiting and other reasons, including recreational wildlifewatching.
Although baiting/artificial feeding of wildlife may be a wellintentioned activity, the ultimate results of such activities have often proven detrimental to the longterm health of wildlife populations, the integrity of wildlife
habitat, to agricultural resources, and to property and human health and safety. Additionally, baiting of wildlife results in human/wildlife conflict, abnormal wildlife density, increased opportunity for transfer of disease, and other negative impacts to target and nontarget species.
Currently 30 states within the United States prohibit hunting deer over bait. A public that associates baiting/feeding with wildlife stewardship is unprepared to understand and act on the real and substantive threats to sustainable use and management of wildlife resources.
Baiting, as used herein, is defined as “any food or food product intentionally placed for the purpose of luring or attracting game species to enhance the opportunity to harvest, not including a decoy, a scent, or a chemical attractant”. Thus, bait would include any food or food products including mineral supplements, salt, or other material representing a food attractant placed in wildlife habitat. Provision of food plots planted within accepted local/regional agricultural guidelines are not considered baiting or artificial feeding.
Artificial/supplemental feeding (henceforth noted as feeding) of game species is defined as “the provision of food that is artificially placed in wildlife habitat, seasonally or yearround, for the purpose of luring or attracting game species to those locations.”
Scientific evidence demonstrates that baiting and feeding: (1) concentrates wildlife at abnormal densities; (2) increases direct and indirect contact among wildlife species; (3) increases likelihood of disease transmission; (4) maintains endemic disease pools that are capable of causing widespread sickness and mortality of wildlife and domestic animals; (5) cause significant habitat damage; and (6) increase intraand
interspecific competition and stress among and within wildlife populations. Paradoxically, while baiting/feeding practices are usually intended for the purpose of attracting or luring a specific species of wildlife, these practices may have significant detrimental effects to nontarget species attracted to the bait or feed. Common examples of disease problems associated with baiting/feeding to both target and nontarget wildlife include blackhead (histomoniasis) and (avian pox) in wild turkey, bobwhite quail and other birds, bovine tuberculosis (BT) and chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild and enclosed ungulates such as deer and elk, pseudorabies and swine brucellosis in feral hogs, and rabies and distemper in raccoons, fox, and coyotes. There are numerous other diseases and parasites that can be readily transmitted at baiting or feeding sites through direct or indirect contact between animals and the bait or feed. The economic costs associated with wildlife disease outbreaks and control can be severe. Costs of disease outbreaks are generally recurring and additive due to annual costs of monitoring and eradicating diseased animals, and can cause a significant decrease in hunting license revenue due to increased hunter/public caution and decreased hunter participation. Such loss of huntingrelated revenue to rural economies can be disastrous to the states economic stability and may decrease operating budgets of state wildlife.