Utah bill presented to ban deer baiting due to disease

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Kristine Kim
Utah has seen the spread of chronic wasting disease. Using bait to hunt for deer has become a way that the disease has spread throughout the deer population. Rep. Casey Snider has proposed HB295, a bill that would ban baiting in hunting. (Kristine Kim)

Cache Valley’s Rep. Casey Snider has proposed HB295 to ban the hunting practice of using bait to hunt for deer and other animals.

The bill passed the House on Feb. 18 and now sits in the Senate Rules Committee.

The method of using a pile of corn or apples to lure deer has mostly been used by bow hunters to get a clearer shot of the animal at close range.

Some hunters do not enjoy using bait to lure animals, as it can take away the natural element of hunting for wild prey. It may also be considered unethical to use other forms of aid when hunting.

“I personally like hunting animals in their own habitat and getting high into the mountains to find them,” said BYU alumnus and hunter Weston Birtcher. “I don’t like luring animals to one set spot and making them come to me.”

The bait can also be an agent for transmitting diseases through animal saliva. The piles of bait have infected many Utah deer with chronic wasting disease, which affects deer, elk, reindeer, sika deer and moose. Once infected, the animals can experience weight loss and other neurological symptoms.

“Baiting wildlife can artificially distribute animals on the landscape, which can potentially result in habitat damage and increased disease transmission,” said Justin Shannon, wildlife section chief of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. “There are also concerns related to the ‘fair chase’ of baited animals when hunting.”

BYU plant and wildlife sciences professor Brock McMillan said baiting practices affect how deer naturally navigate their surrounding landscape.

With these effects of baiting, Snider wants to ban the use of baiting in hunting to decrease disease transmission and make it “fair game” for hunting.

“One of the things that’s always been important to me, and it’s why I enjoy hunting, is there’s always been this notion of a hunting ethic and fair chase,” Snider said.

“We appreciate the sponsor and the legislature taking the time and effort to address the needs of Utah’s hunters and the public at large,” Shannon said. “We look forward to working with the sponsor and the legislature to address the management of Utah’s wildlife for the benefit of the citizens who enjoy them.”

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