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Whitmer vetoes bill to lift restrictions on backyard bird feeders

Deer visit Representative Ken Borton's "snowman cam". The Republican bill sponsor says he’s been battling the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for years over his backyard bird feeder.

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

“I just wanted to be left alone,” he told Michigan Public Radio. “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,” he told Michigan Public Radio. 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.

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.”