Monday, September 8, 2008

Chronic Wasting Disease and Bird Feeding

CWD rule: If it attracts deer, remove it

by Howard Meyerson

You might wonder just what sick deer and Chickadees have in common. The answer isn't obvious unless you live in the country where deer gather under bird feeders.
Both will feed on sunflower seeds. That presents a dilemma for some people who like to feed birds.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources director Becky Humphries signed an emergency order last week calling for a ban on deer and elk baiting and feeding in the Lower Peninsula.
That goes for bird feeding, too -- if deer are drawn to the scratched seeds on the ground. The ban was put in place to slow any potential for spread of chronic wasting disease, which was found in one captive-bred deer on a Kent County deer farm.

So far, no wild, free-ranging deer are known to have it. State officials are hopeful that it is a one-deer case.

But they also know baiting and animal feeding can accelerate its spread, should it somehow be found outside the enclosure where the sick deer was euthanized.
Deer that gather to feed, breathe on food and defecate where they are eating. Other deer come in contact with that food.

"People are calling in about what they can put in bird feeders," said Sara Schaefer, the DNR's southwest Michigan wildlife supervisor. "We are recommending that they use bird seed or suet that does not attract deer.

"Finch food is not so much an issue as shelled corn or sunflower seeds, which are popular with deer. They will come in and clean up around the feeders."

In all cases, it will be up to the conservation officer to determine whether a landowner is complying with the ban and whether the circumstances warrant action.

The line is reasonably clear. If it attracts deer and they feed there, it's a problem.
In the heart of Grand Rapids, where I live and keep five bird feeders, I don't see any deer. No elk. No moose. I know as I say this, I will wake up tomorrow and find a huge buck staring in my living room window.

I do get an occasional skunk, possum, rabbit and stray cat in my yard. But they would rather rifle trash bags than raid feeder droppings.
But friends in the suburbs speak regularly of seeing deer. Feeders in their backyards could well be a problem.

"There are lots of urban deer, so the baiting ban applies to everyone," said Schaefer.
Disease poses no risk to humansState officials say there is no risk to humans from the disease.
"We are getting calls from people saying 'I know its banned, but can we do this or that,' trying to get around the rule," Schaefer said.

There are even those who call and ask if a Lower Peninsula "ban on baiting" means they can't bait.
Hmmm. Ya gotta wonder.

The ban that went into place last week prohibits putting out salt blocks, minerals, grains, seeds, hay, vegetables and other food that will attract deer. It allows for hunting food plots or over food scattered naturally as part of normal agricultural practices.

The intent is not to stop Mrs. Smith from feeding Chickadees, Schaefer said, but to stop her from doing anything that will attract deer in to feed.

Bear baiting also is limited to foods that deer don't eat. Donut piles are still OK. Jelly donuts, French crullers, even Oreos. Deer, I'm told, don't have a sweet tooth.
Meat and fish products also remain ok bear bait.

I guess deer don't like Sushi either.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Bird Feeding--Hungry Bears

The Amazon Outdoor Store
By Jim Low -

Spring is a lean time for bears, but they are better off living on what nature provides than dining on food from people.

Black bears normally are shy and elusive, but the Missouri Department of Conservation urges those few Missourians lucky enough to see bears to keep them at arm's length. Keeping bears wild not only protects people and property, it protects bears, too.Missouri's bear population is small. The Conservation Department estimates their number at fewer than 500, nearly all of which live south of the Missouri River. Bear numbers are growing slowly, however, as individuals disperse into Missouri from the established population in Arkansas.
Throughout most of the year, Missouri's black bear population is nearly invisible. Naturally fearful of humans, they prefer to mind their own business, foraging for natural foods in fields and forests.
Early summer is the exception. A winter long on naps and short on meals leaves them hungry just when their staple foods - acorns and other wild crops - are least abundant. Until berries begin to ripen, they are extra active, ranging widely in search of food.It is not surprising, then, that June brings an uptick in bear sightings. Missourians are apt to find that bruins have raided their bird feeders, emptied pet food bowls or even ventured into out buildings and onto back porches, lured by the smell of human foodstuffs or garbage. There is a danger in all this for both people and bears.Bears are primarily a threat to property, such as bee hives and outbuildings where livestock feed is stored. Most bears that become nuisances can be scared away.
Occasionally one must be trapped and relocated. In rare cases, bears that have lost their natural fear of humans must be destroyed.It is much better for a bear never to get used to humans and handouts. People in southern Missouri - especially those living in rural and suburban areas, should be aware of the potential for bear problems and eliminate the source of such problems - unsecured food.Even bird feeders with sunflower seeds, hummingbird feeders and suet cakes all can attract hungry bears. It is a good idea to discontinue bird feeding until midsummer if you know bears live in your area.
Other advice for avoiding bear problems includes: --Feeding dogs and cats indoors. --Storing livestock feed in airtight containers in locked storage areas. --Cleaning up outdoor grills after each use and storing them indoors. --Putting garbage out the morning of collection. Double-bag refuse, and add a dash of ammonia to each bag before sealing to discourage bears. --Do not place meat or sweet food scraps in your compost pile. --Never intentionally feed bears.
Campers also should be watchful this time of year, because bears sometimes learn to associate campgrounds with an easy meal. Rules for bear-safe camping include never cooking, eating or storing food in tents or sleeping areas and keeping food locked inside vehicles when not in use. If a bear enters your campsite, get inside your vehicle and stay there.If a bear wanders into your yard while you are outside, make your presence known by making lots of noise and get inside as quickly as possible.

Bird Feeding--Caution

Recent reports of sick or dead birds at backyard feeders has prompted the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to recommend that people temporarily discontinue bird feeding, or take extra steps to maintain feeders.Laboratory analysis of bird carcasses has confirmed salmonellosis, a common and usually fatal bird disease caused by the salmonella bacteria, said WDFW veterinarian Kristin Mansfield."Salmonellosis is probably the most common avian disease at feeders in Washington," Mansfield said in a news release. "The disease afflicts species such as finches, grosbeaks and pine siskins that flock together in large numbers at feeders and transmit the disease through droppings."The first indication of the disease is often a seemingly tame bird on or near a feeder, Mansfield said."The birds become very lethargic, fluff out their feathers, and are easy to approach," she said, "but there is very little people can do to treat them."About four dozen reports of dead birds have been received over the past several weeks involving pine siskins, goldfinches and purple finches in both eastern and western Washington. Carcasses of purple finches and pine siskins were sent to a Washington State University laboratory for testing that confirmed the disease.It's possible, although uncommon, for people to be become sick from the salmonella bacteria through direct contact with infected birds, bird droppings, or through pet cats that catch sick birds. People who handle birds, bird feeders or bird baths should wear gloves and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards, Mansfield said.She advised stopping backyard bird feeding for at least a few weeks, if not for the remainder of the summer, to encourage birds to disperse and forage naturally."Birds use natural food sources year-round, even while using bird feeding stations," she said.

Bird Feeding--Fun&Easy

By Jill Gleeson
If a bird in hand is worth two in the bush, a yard full of winged creatures is priceless.
The melody of birdsong in the morning, the sight of brightly hued, feathered friends in flight for many is supremely satisfying.
They should help ensure "a wonderful time in your backyard every day," said Joe Kosack, Pennsylvania Game Commission wildlife conservation education specialist.
But while it may seem an easy proposition attracting birds to your property (if you feed them, they will come), there are some simple guidelines to follow.
What to feed
While some people are happy to feed any bird on their property, many prefer to feed only colorful songbirds.
If you've found to your displeasure you've attracted starlings and blackbirds with millet and corn, stop using this feed, and try black-oil sunflower seed, which Kosack calls "the all-time, No. 1 bird seed. It probably appeals to 75 percent of the birds that'll come through your yard," including chickadees, nuthatches, tufted titmice and cardinals.
Cardinals eat raisins, too, as do robins and bluebirds. Bluebirds also may be attracted to a shallow tin filled with a combination of sawdust and mealworms.
Millet attracts the mourning dove, though it also is a magnet for house sparrows, blackbirds and grackles.
Interested in attracting woodpeckers to your property?
Try using suet, or smearing peanut butter into tree crevices. In general, however, says Kosack, "You can just about always pull in birds with a combination of suet, black-oil sunflower and thistle. Those three seeds work wonders."
How to feed
Most of the bird feeders available at home-supply stores work quite well.
Still, "a bird doesn't care if it's eating out of a cardboard box or a fancy, miniature house," Kosack said. "If you want to make a designer statement with something like that, it's fine -- but the birds really don't care."
Black-oil sunflower, thistle, suet and white millet can all be thrown on the ground as scratch; black-oil sunflower and thistle also work well in tray or cylindrical feeders. Raisin and nuts can be used in bin feeders; corn-spike feeders may be used for fruit, which can pull in northern orioles, catbirds and woodpeckers. Hummingbird feeders are "not hard to maintain," Kosack said.
Mix four parts water to one part sugar, boil it, let it cool, and then pour it into the feeder.
"But you should change it at least once a week," Kosack cautions, "especially as it get warmer, because it can ferment. And honey will ferment, so you should never use it."
Where to feed
While there are few hard and fast rules to bird feeding, Kosack advises keeping feeders away from windows.
"Birds cannot see glass," he said. "They see reflections of the horizon and other birds and will often fly toward them. Birds always lose when they collide with glass."
Try to place your feeders where there aren't a lot of disturbances, and where there is some cover to give birds a safe place to wait their turn to feed. Avoid placing the feeder near ground cover, which could conceal cats on the prowl. If the feeder doesn't draw birds, relocate it.
"Sometimes just moving it 20 feet can make all the difference in the world," Kosack said.
What else
While feeding is a great way to coax birds onto your property, there are other methods as well. Water from ponds, birdbaths, even creeks and streams all attract birds. When using a man-made source, such as a birdbath, be sure there is cover nearby.
"After birds get themselves wet they'll need to fly someplace close by to preen," Kosack said. "And although my biologist swears it doesn't matter whether the water is clean or not, I'm here to tell you, when I change the water in my birdbath, birds flock to it immediately."
Plantings also can attract birds; Kosack likes fruit trees, such as the Japanese flowering crabapple.
"It's a wonderful tree for your yard," he said. "It has an incredible blossom display in the spring and provides wildlife, like robins and cedar waxwings, with a great source of food in the winter. And the fruit could also attract insects, which will attract birds."
Holly bushes are magnets for robins; bee balm and trumpet vine attract hummingbirds.
"And sometimes just a dead tree can be one of the best things you can have in your yard," Kosack said. "Woodpeckers will really work it over for the insects, and other birds will make cavities in it for nesting."
While early spring is the best time to attract migrating neotropical birds, such as warblers, there are still plenty of pleasures to be had feeding birds this time of year.
"Get your feeders set up now, keep them going over the winter -- when birds need the most help -- and feed all year round. In another couple of weeks, you'll start seeing things like a whole family of cardinals coming in to eat, or young woodpeckers coming with mom to the suet. Things like that are just priceless."