North Dakota House passes big game baiting bill
Supporters say hunting over bait enables disabled or older hunters to harvest deer and other big-game animals; opponents say it takes away a tool used by Game and Fish to control diseases
BISMARCK — A bill that would prevent North Dakota’s wildlife managers from imposing bans on hunting big game over bait on private property has cleared the House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate.
House Bill 1151 passed Tuesday in a 76-18 vote, with amendments pertaining to when and where hunters could use feed, as well as the amount. The bill in its original form would have done away with the Game and Fish Department’s authority to put bait bans in place.
The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee moved the bill to the House floor with a 11-0 do-pass vote. Supporters of the bill say hunting over bait is another way to enable disabled or older hunters to harvest deer and other big game animals, and keep young hunters interested in the sport.
Opponents say it takes away a tool used by Game and Fish to control diseases more easily spread when deer congregate, specifically chronic wasting disease. The department opposed the initial bill, arguing that officials won’t get a second chance at fighting CWD if it gets past a certain point.
Farmers and ranchers for years have fed wildlife “every time there’s a tough winter” and aren’t likely to stop, said bill co-sponsor Rep. Dick Anderson, R-Willow City.
“I’m not sure stopping baiting is going to have any real control on chronic wasting disease,” he said, adding that the extra feed has helped save some of the deer herd.
“It’s not ravaging our herd,” Thomas said. Baiting is a critical tool that helps hunters, especially youth or those who have difficulty hunting because of physical limitations, “enjoy the sport of harvesting deer,” the representative said.
“We have in this state not a lot of opportunities for recreation, not a lot of opportunities for activities that youth and all of us like to do after 5 o’clock when we get done working,” Thomas said.
Rep. Liz Conmy, D-Fargo, urged a no vote, saying she was “really torn” by the bill.
“As a hunter and landowner I’m really offended when someone tries to tell me what to do with my land,” Conmy said, “but I’m also cognizant that I don’t own the wildlife that wander across my land.”
The animals are an asset that belongs “to all North Dakotans,” Conmy said, “and we need to acknowledge they are being threatened by an incredibly horrible disease.”
Hunting might be more challenging without baiting and hunters may not like the options Game and Fish presents, but the department shouldn’t be handcuffed in their efforts, she said.
“Please support the public good. Let Game and Fish do their job,” Conmy said.