GAYLORD -- Ken Borton is a celebrity of sorts. At least his snowman is.
Borton, of Gaylord, runs a Web site called www.snowmancam.com that's viewed by thousands each day. It's a site where anyone can log on and check the snow depth in prime snowmobile territory and whether any critters are creeping around his bird feeders.
And that's the problem. Deer seem to like his feeders too.
State officials twice cited Borton for violating Lower Michigan's ban on feeding or baiting deer and elk since chronic wasting disease was found in a penned Kent County deer.
Borton's feeders are stocked with birdseed and are suspended nearly six feet off the ground from a wire along the side of his home. Empty seed hulls litter the ground. Officials told him he must scoop up the leftover seed casings each day to be in compliance with the law.
"I'm hoping at this point that it's a misunderstanding," Borton said.
Borton must appear today in 87th District Court to answer the latest grievance. Chief Judge Patricia Morse dismissed the previous case after Borton agreed to use approved feeders and permitted state officials to inspect the site.
Doug Reeves, assistant wildlife division chief for the state Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said the state isn't concerned if an occasional deer passes by and sniffs a feeder. The problem comes when multiple deer frequent backyard feeders.
"When deer begin to come to bird feeders on a regular basis, it becomes a regular spot for deer to feed," Reeves said. "Most people have their feeders up high enough that deer can't reach them."
Dean Molnar, DNRE law enforcement assistant chief, said state officials don't want to discourage residents from feeding birds because it's a common, legal pastime. The trouble comes when deer grow accustomed to easy meals.
"You have to stop or make the feeder so the deer can't get into it," he said.
Michigan law states that feeding wild birds is allowed "if done in such a manner as to exclude wild, free-ranging white-tailed deer and elk from gaining access to the feed."
The DNRE dedicated between 40 and 80 man-hours to investigate Borton's case and various complaints against him, said DNRE Sgt. Jim Gorno.
Borton said the state receives complaints from his Web site viewers who have been cited for violating the feeding ban and are incensed when they see deer poke around his steel-bottomed feeders.
The legal question is whether Borton's feeders hinder deer from easy access to the cache of sunflower seeds, Morse said.
It's an interesting case because "a lot of people have deer under their bird feeders," she said.
Morse declined to comment on Borton's pending case.
"He's done everything to be compliant," said Paul Slough, Borton's Gaylord attorney.