GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It is illegal in Michigan to hide drugs in bait piles to help hunt bears, but what about naturally occurring supplements?
The state’s Natural Resources Commission is expected to vote on a change next month to ban certain supplements like melatonin to give hunters a leg up while hunting bears.
Cody Norton, a bear specialist with the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division, presented the proposal earlier this month. Norton says the agency is trying to get out in front of a potential new trend.
“(We had) one hunter report to us that they had heard another hunter talking about using it. So, we don’t actually have a confirmed case in the field,” Norton told News 8. “It’s a situation that wanted to try to get ahead of and ensure that it doesn’t become a more common practice.”
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by your brain that helps a person fall asleep and is now widely used as a supplement. However, melatonin gummies could also appear appetizing to a hungry bear and the drowsiness brought on by the melatonin wouldn’t make the hunt a fair fight. Norton and many other hunters believe that goes against the common hunter ethos of “fair chase.”
The Boone and Crockett Club defines fair chase as “the ethical, sportsmanlike and lawful pursuit and taking of any free-ranging wild game animal in a manner that does not give the hunter an improper of unfair advantage over the game animals.”
Norton said many hunting advocacy groups also support banning supplements like melatonin.
In an interview with Bridge Michigan, Mike Thorman of the Michigan Hunting Dog Federation spelled it out without pulling any punches.
“What kind of piss-poor hunter are you that you’ve gotta feed the bear something that’s going to put it to sleep so you can catch it?” Thorman told Bridge Michigan.
Melatonin and other similar supplements would be listed as “stupefying substances.”
“Drugs, anticoagulants and poisons are already prohibited. Melatonin and other substances similar to it are more of like a dietary supplement. They don’t quite fit into any of those categories,” Norton said. “Stupefying substance is kind of the best term that can catch those.”
Before his presentation, Norton said the DNR looked around to other states and other agencies to see if they have taken similar action. According to Norton, Maine is the only other state that bans “stupefying substances” in bear bait, while the Fish and Wildlife Service has bans in place for waterfowl.
“We aren’t necessarily the first one, but we’re still kind of early on in trying to define these things correctly,” he said.
The Natural Resources Commission is expected to vote on the changes at their March meeting. Norton says a quick turnaround on a vote like that is surprisingly common.
“Bear regulations and harvest quotas are reviewed every two years. … We’re working on them throughout that two-year interval. But once we get those recommendations finalized, typically, they’re going to the commission. We call it ‘for information’ one month and then ‘for action’ the following month,” he said. “Sometimes, if it’s a topic that they need more information on or there’s a ton of public interest and comments, sometimes it could get delayed for another month or two.”