Although an exact tally has not yet been released, it appears a resolution to protect white and albino deer passed Monday night’s Sauk County Conservation Congress – placing it on a long path to potentially becoming state law.
More than 100 people turned out at a lecture hall at the University of Wisconsin-Baraboo/Sauk County campus to register their opinions about hunting and fishing rule changes, and propose their own initiatives.
A group from the town of Leland that has seen several of its beloved white deer shot by hunters in recent years proposed a rule change that would protect the animals in the state’s chronic wasting disease zones. The rare deer already are protected throughout the rest of the state.
One of the group’s leaders, Amy Sprecher, introduced a resolution that would make the penalty for killing “predominately white deer” – not just albinos – $10,000 or 180 days in jail, confiscation of the animal and equipment and loss of hunting privileges for five years.
Sprecher said the reason for the hefty penalties is twofold: She was advised that the penalties approved typically are less than what are requested, and to provide a monetary incentive to obey the law.
“If these animals are being sold, they’re getting more than $10,000 for them,” Sprecher said in a phone interview Wednesday.
The state Department of Natural Resources has not yet released the results of resolutions that were introduced during Monday’s hearings in 72 counties. However, Sauk County Conservation Congress member Brad Hasheider said a DNR warden that tallied the results informed him that the white deer resolution was approved with more than 70 votes.
Sauk County Conservation Congress Chair Ken Vertein said the main criticism of the resolution was that it could jeopardize the DNR’s attempt to curtail the spread of chronic wasting disease. But he said he’s not so sure it would have any impact at all.
“(The state’s fight against CWD) has not really been effective from all the information I can see,” he said. “Why would they want to be able to shoot white deer down here to prevent the spread of the disease?”
The Leland group also has lobbied lawmakers to introduce legislation that would protect the animals. That would be a shorter route than the Conservation Congress, in which the resolution would have to pass a statewide vote at a future spring hearing.
State Rep. Fred Clark, D-Sauk City, recently sent a letter to DNR Secretary Kathy Stepp requesting that the DNR review the matter as it considers implementation of the Deer Trustee Report, which recommends a model for deer management in Wisconsin.
“I believe this is an appropriate time to review restoring protections for albino and white deer,” Clark stated.
A representative from the office of Rep. Ed Brooks, R-Reedsburg, said last week that the Assemblyman had met with the DNR to review options, and was waiting to see the level of support at the Conservation Congress before drafting legislation.
Statewide voters at the spring hearings narrowly voted to ban wolf hunters from using dogs, even though they overwhelmingly approved new regulations governing the practice on the same ballot.
This spring’s ballot asked attendees if they supported new regulations for wolf hunters who use dogs and if they supported legislation prohibiting dog use.
Attendees overwhelmingly supported the regulations. But they voted 2,631 to 2,494 in favor of legislation ending dog use on wolves.
Larry Bonde is vice chairman of the congress. He says he can’t explain the dichotomy. Full results are available online at http://dnr.wi.gov/about/wcc/springhearing.html.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.