Heartland Outdoors: Through the Lens

SB2493 to be Heard By House Ag Committee Today

Tuesday, May 15

Today the House Agriculture and conservation committee will hear the amended version of SB2493. The Amended version reads as follows:

While on the surface this may seem innocent enough - a study will be done that could possibly put the entire argument to rest regarding supplemental feeding and the use of supplements and minerals to rest in Illinois. It’s been a hotly debated topic between scientists, biologists, those who work in wildlife, conservation, concerned deer hunters, those knowledgeable about disease, and the proponents who are primarily are those involved in the mineral and supplement industry, captive cervid farmers, those involved in the captive deer industry,  outfitters, as well as many hunters who seek larger racks, bigger deer.

It’s when looking beyond the surface of the engrossed version that the questions begin.

First and foremost; why does there exist such an extreme sense of urgency related to this engrossed bill? Proponents will tell you that it’s because it needs to move through committee, get to the house, be voted on and have everything complete in a nice today package before the end of session on May 31. Proponents may also tell you that it’s because various versions of a deer feeding bill have been introduced in other sessions, yet failed to move forward, and they are continuing the push to allow deer feeding.

My personal opinion is that proponents hope that by giving this bill the rush during a busy time in Springfield, it will be rushed through, given little thought by our legislators, and they can claim victory at the expense of the health of the Illinois whitetail wild herd.

What exactly are some of the problems with the current engrossed version? Why should we be concerned if this is to determine whether or not supplemental feeding is good for Illinois white tails?

First and foremost, this limits the research not only to single University but to a single department/college at that University. It very effectively cuts out any other of the excellent Universities in Illinois, especially those such as Western Illinois University and Southern Illinois University that have thriving wildlife research programs. A research “grant” or funding for a specific research project should not be legislated in this manner. A Request for Proposals should be issued say by IDNR, or another agency involved in the biological study of wildlife, then in turn the best project should be selected regardless of which University, NGO, or research agency the proposal comes from.

The study is “subject to appropriation” yet we are given no real idea how this study will be funded. Will Pittman Robertson dollars be applied for? Will there be a line item appropriation in the U of I budget? Will IDNR’s overall budget be reduced in some way in order to find dollars to assign to this project? Do we have any idea the amount of funding that this is even being consider for the cost of this project? How much will be request through appropriation?  I haven’t gotten any answers from any of the proponents. The only response from the bill Sponsor Sen. Chapin Rose, was to assure me that tax dollars would not be paying for this, nor would the supplement and mineral industry. “It’s not the finished product. It’s a work in progress” was the answer when I pushed him to be a little more specific regarding the amendment. If it’s still a “work in progress” and is not a “finished product” perhaps it would be prudent to submit a bill and amendment that is finished, that is complete. A bill calling for research where the funding sources is clear vs yet one more unfunded mandate.

Don’t be fooled that the study outlined in the amendment is to study the health of the Illinois whitetail herd. It is calling for : “a study for a period of at least 2 years of the health effects of supplemental deer feeding on the wild deer population and whether supplemental feeding affects the spread of any communicable diseases within the deer population. The study shall also designate geographic locations where the practice of supplemental deer feeding may be beneficial.”

Let’s pick that section apart a bit.

Health effects of supplemental feeding- I am guessing that most major mineral, supplement, and feed companies have funded studies and research or performed the same in house as method to promote the advantages of their products. That’s not an unheard of practice. If that’s the case, it would be far less costly to a state in dire financial straits to review available literature than do yet one more piece of costly research to determine “Why yes indeed! Look how big that rack is now that I can I put out and use all of the supplements.!” The fact remains that deer, unless contained within a high fence farm, and utilized as part of a captive cervid enterprise,  are wildlife. They are not owned by any of us. The conjecture that this will only be used on private property only strengthens the myth that folks “own ” the deer that may be found on their property. The wild Illinois deer herd belongs to all of us. Whitetail deer in Illinois are wildlife. They are not livestock to be managed, bred, fed, and turned into a profit. We’ve seen enough of the deer equal dollars approach to know how well that works for the good of our herd and the resource.

To determine whether supplemental feeding affects the spread of any communicable diseases within the deer population
- again the work has been done. We know and literature and scientific paper reviews clearly prove that supplemental feeding does indeed spread disease throughout the wild herd. The most recently published study was released only a few weeks ago regarding mineral licks and the spread of CWD. ewest Study regarding mineral licks and CWD - http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0196745#abstract0

To determine geographical areas where supplemental feeding would be beneficial. Beneficial from what standpoint exactly? Because we have pockets of the wild Illinois herd that are malnourished and they need to be fed? Define beneficial. This study does not address the nutritional status of the wild Illinois herd. If we don’t know what the overall nutritional status is currently, and we have no proof that the wild herd need the vitamins, minerals, supplements again I ask, please tell me exactly what the benefits of supplemental feeding would be that would outweigh the risks of disease transmission and the other problems associated with supplemental feeding.  I have to balance the benefit risk ratio on multiple treatments that have been offered me. Should we not thoroughly examine the benefit risk ratio of supplemental feeding for the sake of our wildlife?

This entire bill has been rushed through with no regard for published, peer reviewed, science, no regard for the overall health of the Illinois whitetail herd, and no regard for the opinions of biologists, scientists, and wildlife management specialists by proponents who either wish to profit from the sale and distribution of the very products in question, to profit from the dollars awarded legislatively for a study that doesn’t clearly identify any problem, but rather a supposed solution to a problem (malnourished whitetail deer) that we don’t even know exists.

After extensive research in multiple scientific and academic data bases, I find not a single reference to the malnutrition in Illinois whitetail herd.

What I do find is a whole lot of advertising dollars and some questionable references to studies and data (but no real citations for a peer reviewed study) that make multiple claims regarding “bone growth”, antler size, and how said products will turn out bigger better deer. Even a few claims that a product can help decrease or control disease, although again, no scientific data/citations to be found. 

Let’s face it, those who are in favor of this bill want to sell more product, build giant racks, and manipulate the wild whitetail deer herd as if they were so much livestock to be bred, fed and engineered for profit by not only the supplement industry but also many outfitters, and hunters who have fallen into the trap of worshiping at the altar of the antler.  It does not have one thing to do with improving the herd, improving a malnourished herd, despite the disingenuous promotion of this plan by the proponents.

I urge you to take a long hard look at the current engrossed version   of the bill, the hidden agendas of the bill, and decide if this truly what we need in Illinois at this point.

Ask yourself if the study of this issue should not be done in a thoughtful and careful manner with representatives from all concerned sides, including the proponents working together to find the appropriate answers or should we just rush through one more piece of poorly written legislation regarding our deer herd, our natural resources,  and consequences be damned. After all, we can always come back next session and rework the whole thing right? We can always just live with the consequences. 

The hearing is currently scheduled for 2:00 pm today. If you feel strongly that this is a bad idea, too risky, too costly, too vague and has too many unanswered questions - you can still file a witness slip in opposition here : http://my.ilga.gov/Hearing/HearingDetail/16060

* Please note All views expressed in this piece are the opinion of the author and may or may not reflect the views of Heartland Outdoors, or any other enity with which she is affiliated.

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