Lansing — Michigan deer hunters should not expect to see any last-minute changes in this year’s deer hunting regulations or quotas as a result of findings from the DNR’s audit of more than 500 domestic cervid operations.
The statewide audit, which the DNR began in June, was expected to be completed by Oct. 1, in time to implement additional antlerless license quotas or other measures deemed critical to protect the health of Michigan’s wild deer and elk, a move DNR Director Becky Humphries had said would be undertaken if necessary.
But despite an approximate 33-percent noncompliance rate of state rules regarding cervid facilities by Michigan’s domestic deer and elk farmers, no glaring red flags have been revealed by the audits, according to Doug Reeves, the DNR’s current acting Wildlife Division chief.
At least, not yet. “With approximately 30 farms left to be audited (as of Sept. 23), we haven’t found any animals with apparent signs of CWD or anything like that,” Reeves said. “We do have some concerns, but, so far, nothing of an alarming nature that could be considered a huge threat to the health of our wild deer and elk.”
Even if something was found during the remaining audits that indicated emergency changes to deer hunting regulations were called for, doing so still would require the approval of the Natural Resources Commission through the normal 60-day regulatory process, Reeves noted.
“So, even if we felt that additional licenses or something of that nature was warranted, we couldn’t do it before the end of the regular firearms deer season,” he said.
Most of the concerns cited by audit teams during the course of the inspections revolved around gaps under fences or gates that could possibly allow domestic and wild animals to pass back and forth and mingle with one another, and in a lack of adequate documentation of domestic cervid movement, Reeves said. “In those cases, the operators of these facilities were given an opportunity to correct these situations, with the audit teams returning for re-inspection of the problem areas.”
Dave Dominic, the DNR wildlife unit supervisor in charge of overseeing the project, said most deer and elk farmers have been cooperative, both with initial inspections and return visits.
In fact, the audits have gone so well that the agency has been able to add approximately 40 Type 3 and 4 (hobby and exhibition operations) to the original list of 540 Type 1 and 2 farms, which include hunting preserves, velvet, antler and meat operations, and breeding facilities.
“At some future date, we will inspect another 150 or so hobby farms as well,” Dominic said. “Eventually, we’ll look at all of them, everywhere in the state.”
An appointed team of Wildlife Division biologists, with the assistance of DNR Law Enforcement staff, will be compiling the data received from the inspections into a final report, said Reeves, who added that it’s hoped a rough draft of the completed data will be ready in mid-November, with a final report available by Jan. 1.
Funding for the audit, which was expected to cost approximately $800,000, came from disease funds appropriated from Michigan’s General Fund and from re-directed DNR Law Enforcement Division monies.
The agency has asked for an appropriation of $500,000 in Game and Fish Fund monies from the Legislature to augment the loss of the disease funds.