$1.8 Million Paid for Wildlife Crop Damage in 2004

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Wisconsin farmers received more than $1.8 million in payments for crop losses caused by wildlife in 2004 through the Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program (WDACP) according to a year-end report prepared for the legislature by the Department of Natural Resources.

The program was created by the legislature in 1983 to provide farmers agricultural crop damage prevention assistance and partial compensation for damages caused by wildlife. A copy of the full report to the legislature (Adobe® Acrobat® Reader® is needed to view and print the portable document format (PDF) file. To download Adobe Acrobat for free, please see the DNR Download Page.) is available on the wildlife management pages of the DNR Web site.

The program pays for damages caused by deer, bear, elk, geese and wild turkeys. Key provisions of the program include recipients implementing measures to abate the damage, such as fencing, noisemakers, trapping and relocation of problem animals, as well as allowing hunter access during hunting seasons. Lethal controls are also used when non-lethal abatement measures are not effective.

“In Wisconsin deer are the primary cause of crop damage,” said Bryan Woodbury, DNR agricultural damage program coordinator. “Historically they account for about 90 percent of our damage claim payments.”

In 2004, appraisers determined deer were responsible for damaging 16,092 acres of crops.

Total assessed crop damages due to deer were $2.1 million in 2004 according to Woodbury. Bear damages were assessed at almost $90,000, goose damages at almost $50,000 and turkey at $196,300. The damage fund is financed by a $1 surcharge on all hunting licenses and all revenues from the sale of bonus antlerless deer permits.

“Damage abatement measures are crucial in reducing losses,” says Woodbury. “Scare devices, such as pyrotechnics, propane cannons and Mylar® flagging are very effective at goose and turkey damage prevention especially if they are used soon after the damage starts.”

Other abatement measures include trapping and moving black bears. The U.S. Department of Agriculture – Wildlife Services trapped and translocated 276 bears from 32 counties in 2004.

Fencing also has a place in protecting some crops.

“In 2004 the program paid for construction of over 23 miles of 8-foot tall fence around high value crops such as cranberries, Christmas trees and orchards. These fences should last 25 to 30 years and save the state and growers millions of dollars,” according to Woodbury. Agricultural damage shooting permits

Agricultural damage shooting permits are rarely issued for bear, goose or turkey damage as the behavior of these animals lends itself to non-lethal methods of damage abatement according to wildlife officials.

Deer are another story. Biologists issued 748 deer damage shooting permits in 2004 leading to lethal removal of 7,902 deer.

“Agricultural deer damage shooting permits are very effective in reducing current year damage and damage the subsequent year in hot spot areas,” says Woodbury. “Because deer are an abundant wildlife species, this level of harvest has very little impact on deer populations within a deer management unit but gives a farmer the ability to control deer numbers on their land.”

Deer damage shooting permits were issued in 65 Wisconsin counties last year say officials. The greatest number of permits issued and greatest number of deer removed under those permits were in Marinette County where 542 deer were harvested.

In all, 642 claims were paid in 63 counties in 2004. Marinette County had the highest total paid damages at $311,467; Outagamie County farmers received the second largest payout at $120,407.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Bryan Woodbury - (608) 266-2151