Music and NPR News for Central and Northern Michigan
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Governor Whitmer vetoes bill to lift restrictions on certain backyard bird feeders

The Brooklyn Bird Club spotted a common grackle perched on a bird feeder on Feb. 16.
Courtesy of Tina Alleva
The Brooklyn Bird Club spotted a common grackle perched on a bird feeder on Feb. 16.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer has vetoed a bill that would have lifted some restrictions on backyard wildlife feeding. The bill upholds existing restrictions adopted by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission.

The vetoed bill, HB 4008, would have allowed up to two gallons of bird or animal feed within 300 feet of a residence.

The governor said in her veto letter that would pose a health threat to wildlife, to hunting and livestock:

“The Natural Resources Commission’s ban on deer and elk feeding is based on strong scientific evidence, which demonstrates that feeding disrupts normal wildlife movement patterns, causing animals to congregate and thereby accelerating the spread of deadly diseases like bovine tuberculosis. HB 4008 would cast aside sound disease management principles to loosen restrictions on deer and elk feeding, threatening our agricultural and hunting industries.”

The bill was sponsored by Republican Representative Ken Borton of Gaylord, who said he’s been on the receiving end of the DNR’s overzealous, in his opinion, enforcement of the regulation.

“I just wanted to be left alone,” Borton said. “I wanted to make sure that people in the state of Michigan could feed their birds in solitude, enjoy wildlife, enjoy nature and not worry about being harassed from the DNR.”

Borton has also been fighting the DNR in court on the rule. DNR Wildlife Division Chief Jared Duquette says people are allowed to put out bird feed, but it is illegal to do it in a way that could attract deer or elk. He says that’s because feeders can be a vector for disease.

“You can attract unnaturally high congregations of animals over and above what they would normally do just in nature if you weren’t having this kind of point source food for them,” Duquette said.

Duquette also says changing the rules on backyard wildlife feed would be inconsistent with other regulations that ban the use of bait by deer and elk hunters across most of Michigan.

Borton says his bill was not about interfering with the hunting regulations.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.