County deer feeding ban kept in place by board

by Emmitt B. Feldner
of The Review staff

SHEBOYGAN – To feed or not to feed – deer, that is – was the question before the County Board Tuesday.

In the end, the supervisors voted to keep in place a county ban on feeding deer, in contrast to recently-enacted state legislation easing restrictions on feeding and baiting deer.

A resolution which would have rescinded the ban, imposed in 2003 in response to confirmed cases of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in deer in close proximity to Sheboygan County, failed to pass.

The vote was 13-8, with supervisors Mark Winkel, Vernon Koch, Jim Glavan, George Marthenze, Thomas Epping, Thomas Wegner, Libby Ogea and Brian Hoffmann voting in favor of the resolution to lift the ban. Supervisors Greg Weggeman, Keith Abler, Steven Bauer and Brian Hilbelink were absent.

“The state of Wisconsin has revised their feeding laws,” Epping said, pointing to a law enacted by the Legislature this year lifting the ban in 44 of the state’s counties, including Sheboygan County.

“Presently we have not heard of any issues with CWD in Sheboygan County nor any signs of CWD in any wildlife in Sheboygan County,” Epping noted.

“I want to give our citizens the opportunity to make the decision themselves,” on whether or not to feed, Epping said. “This (ban) is a law I don’t think is necessary and we should take it away.”

Supervisor Jim Baumgart gave a lengthy argument for keeping the ban in place, citing statistics from Wisconsin and Iowa showing an increase in reported cases of CWD where deer feeding has been allowed.

“My advice to the people who hunt in Sheboygan County, if you want to keep the infection rate down, don’t feed,” Baumgart stated. “If you want less deer, then take a chance.

“We should be leaders and not followers when it comes to CWD,” Baumgart concluded.

Supervisor Al Bosman agreed with Baumgart, saying that, from a health standpoint, anything that can be done to control the spread of CWD is worthwhile.

“The problem I have is with the enforcement angle,” Hoffmann said of the ban. He conceded that he could go “either way” on the issue.

Hoffmann cited one local restaurant which, he said, openly feeds on its premises so patrons can enjoy views of wildlife as they dine.

Marthenze echoed the enforcement concern.

“In the … years we’ve had this ordinance it’s never been enforced. We’ve never had a citation written,” he stated.

“I don’t believe we have ever been in a position where we’ve been able to issue a citation,” for the feeding ban, Inspector Jim Risseeuw of the Sheboygan County Sheriff’s Department agreed. He noted that in most cases where there is an issue with possible hunting or wildlife violations, they are referred to the local Department of Natural Resources wardens.

“What it comes down to is an enforcement issue and a policy issue,” Marthenze commented. “Local governments are not allowed to create local hunting rules,” to supersede state law, he added.

“If you keep it, the DNR is going to come here and tell us it’s null and void and not to enforce it,” Marthenze said of the local feeding ban.

The board’s Law Committee had voted to recommend eliminating the feeding ban ordinance. But the Planning, Resources, Agriculture and Education Committee and the Health and Human Services Committee both voted to keep the ban in place – the former committee unanimously, the latter by a 5-2 vote.

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