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Recent entries


Through the Lens

SB2493 to be Heard By House Ag Committee Today

Tue, May 15, 2018

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 -

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 :

* 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.


It’s World Migratory Bird Day!

Sat, May 12, 2018

Today marks World Migratory Bird Day.

“It is an amazing thought that a bird outside your window has traveled thousands of miles across oceans and continents to be there. Its appearance could be your welcome first sign of summer, while in six months’ time it could herald winter for a faraway nation. Migratory birds transcend borders to connect all of us in shared wonderment. They inspire nations to collaborate to provide water, food and shelter – to the benefit of ourselves as well as our wildlife. Migratory birds bring people and wildlife around the world together, and that is worth celebrating.” said Martin Spray CBE Chief Executive of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT)

Since 1993, International Migratory Bird Day has been celebrated during the second weekend in May in the Western Hemisphere, coordinated by Environment for the Americas and sponsored by dozens of organizations dedicated to birds and bird conservation.

This year, Environment for the Americas joins the Convention on Migratory Species and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds to create a single, global bird conservation education campaign. World Migratory Bird Day is now celebrated in May and October and brings attention to one of the most important and spectacular events in the Americas – bird migration.

For 2018, World Migratory Bird Day celebrates the year of the bird and the ways we can help protect birds every day through actions, stories and art.

There are several ways to help migratory birds and support conservation. Join a conservation organization. Volunteer for organizations that conserve habitat and help birds. Restore natural habitat in your community and cultivate native plants that provide food, nest sites and cover for birds.

One of the best ways to support migratory birds and wetland conservation in the U.S. is to buy a Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, commonly known as the federal duck stamp.

There are several reasons to buy duck stamps for non hunters and hunters both. . A federal duck stamp is required to legally hunt migratory waterfowl in the United States.  A duck stamp covers the entrance fees and provides important funding for our national wildlife refuges. Because duck stamp funding does so much to support migratory bird conservation, even non hunting bird enthusiasts buy them to directly support this worthy cause. Whether you purchase a duck stamp to use hunting, to use to cover entrance fees to NWR’s , or to help support conservation; Why not buy a couple of them each year to help waterfowl and support our migrating birds, our hunting traditions, and our valuable National Wildlife Refuges, ? I like to give them as gifts - it’s a gift that keeps on giving year round for those who receive them.

So, in the spirit of World Migratory Bird Day, here some images of the migrants that have passed through my neighborhood this spring.

The pair of white faced ibis that hung around the Kaskaskia SFWA for a couple of weeks were quite the entertaining pair to watch, and somewhat unusual to see in southwest Illinois.
Lots of other shore birds and waders seemed to find the refuges at Rend Lake and Kaskaskia SFWA a great place to stop over for a few days.

Grab the binos, go for a walk or boat ride and see how many migrating species you can find this weekend as we all celebrate World Migratory Bird Day !

Visit for more information about World Migratory Bird Day.


Deer Feeding Bill Passes Senate with Multiple Changes from Original

Wed, May 02, 2018

The amended version of SB 2493 passed the Senate on Tuesday with only one NO vote. This version of SB2493 is substantially different from the introduced version. The amendment removed all original language, removed references to the Fish and Wildlife Code and instead moved the amendment to the University of Illinois Act.
The now engrossed bill states:

“AN ACT concerning wildlife. 
Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly: Section 5 The University of Illinois Act is amended by adding Section 13 as follows:
(110 ILCS 305/13 new)
Sec. 13. Supplemental deer food; study. The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, subject to appropriation and in consultation with the Department of Natural Resources, shall conduct 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. The University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine shall submit its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly in a report no more than 60 days after the completion of the study. The report to the General Assembly shall be filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate in electronic form only, in the manner that the Clerk and the Secretary shall direct.”

When asked who or what organizations brought this initiative to Rose for introduction, he only answered that it was his constituents and his district serves a large number of avid deer hunters who have been concerned with the health of the herd and feel strongly that allowing supplemental feeding will help to enhance the health of the IL herd.

While opponents were not successful in getting the supplemental feeding bill stopped completely, bill sponsor Chapin Rose felt this was a good compromise to a long-standing debate about the need for and safety of supplemental feeding in CWD positive state. “I took the amendment to DNR before filing, and they weighed in as neutral.” said Rose. It is unclear exactly how much input DNR had in the current language or crafting of the amendment. During the NRAB meeting on April 30 IDNR director Rosenthal explained that IDNR remains opposed to supplemental feeding but is indeed neutral on the proposed study.

When asked about what seemed like such urgency in crafting the amendment and getting it passed this session Rose explained that was due to legislative session deadlines, and the hopes of getting it through the senate, on to the house and having the issue settled by the end of this session. “I’ve been trying for two years to get this done, but IDNR has remained steadfast in their opposition.” Said Rose.

Rose explained this was a way to insure the issue was studied properly, through a university research program system, with appropriate checks and balances, ethics, and by one of the top veterinary schools in the nation.  The mechanics of the study, the researchers who will be doing it – all will be determined by the team performing the research.  Rose expressed that science should be handled by the science and research community rather than the legislators. “We have one of the best research Universities at U of I – but I would be open to hearing from other universities or agencies who would be interested.”

It seems unusual that a research study/project be mandated by legislative process, a concern that was echoed by those in the academic and research world. While not un heard of, it’s rather unusual. Usually a research project is designed, and proposal made, requests for funding are made and awarded based on the merits of the individual study. In this case, it seems a bit of a reverse of the process.

It does appear that perhaps the amendment gets the cart before the horse, and that perhaps a better study would be to determine the nutritional status of the herd first, to identify if a problem exists before identifying the solution. Do IL wild white tails truly need supplemental feeding due to any nutritional deficiencies? Rose indicated that by allowing the supplemental feeding, deer would be able to better withstand disease should they become exposed, so essentially that’s one of the things the study would help to determine.

When asked about concerns given the fact that there are volumes of research that indicate supplemental feeding does spread disease, and this could have a negative impact regarding the spread of CWD throughout the state. Rose said “Deer are social animals. They are still going to congregate and feed together. Supplemental feeding would give them health benefits that could help them to be healthier and better withstand disease exposure.  Illinois CWD cases have grown exponentially without supplemental feeding.”  (Per IDNR Prevalence rates have remained low and changed little over time since discovery of CWD in 2002, but there is a slowly increasing trend in recent years, most notably for adult males. The overall prevalence rate remains steady at less than 3%) When reviewing the prevalence rate data, it could hardly be called exponential growth.

The Illinois CWD program is considered a successful program, and often cited a model approach to the control and spread of CWD.

When asked about specific language in the bill, such as why only U of I and why legislatively mandate a wildlife study, what would be the mechanics of the study, etc. – Rose said “This isn’t the final product, it’s a work in progress and we will be working on some of those specifics going forward. The language is likely to change somewhat, and I am open to discussing those changes.”

Rose remained adamant that the study would not be funded by taxpayer dollars, nor by any of the supplemental feed companies. Although the actual funding sources have yet to be determined, the study is contingent upon appropriation. 

While many opponents see this a defeat, it does provide for the study of supplemental feeding and its effects on the Illinois herd. The data gleaned from this study could put this issue to rest once and for all in Illinois. The downside is at this point no one really knows what the actual project will entail, how it will be funded, and it seems risky to allow supplemental feeding, even in a controlled research setting in a state with CWD.

There are volumes of research regarding the supplemental feeding of deer, the contribution of supplemental feeding to the spread of disease, and other negative impacts. Rose maintains that the use of supplemental feeding will provide an over all net positive for the herd and that the good from supplemental feeding will over ride what little negative impact there may be.

The question was posed to Rose that many of the opponents feel that this has more to do with supplemental feed companies, and hunters that wanted to use the products to produce larger racks, bigger bucks regardless of any risk. Some even seeing this a stepping stone to at some point in the future allowing hunting over bait. Rose was very adamant that this was solely to address the overall health of the Illinois herd, and insuring that citizens in Illinois had every advantage available to maintain the health of the herd.

As Rose frequently stated – this is a work in progress, not the finished product. Both proponents and opponents still have 4 weeks of the house session to make changes, find areas of compromise, hammer out specific details, such as funding, the mechanics of the study, and who and how it would be conducted.

Until the bill is finalized and taken to the floor for a House vote, concerned deer hunters, wildlife managers, all parties will have to be content with a wait and see approach and follow the bill as it progresses.

The bill can be followed here.




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