Wildlife can damage your farm
By Michael Carter
The Ohio Department of National Resources Division of Wildlife has a vast range of duties as it relates to agriculture.
Possibly one of their biggest involvements in this business is providing quality service to farm producers experiencing wildlife damage to their crops.
Wildlife not only build their homes in fields, they also use the farmers’ crops as a main food source.
Wildlife —from as small as chipmunks to as large as deer — can be blamed.
“Determining the cause of wildlife crop damage may be easy. Convincing the owners of the crops to accept the evaluation is often more difficult,” according to the crop damage manual from the ODNR.
“I have the most problem with raccoons,” said Bill Frankart, who farms 4,800 acres in Seneca, Sandusky and Huron counties.
“They are a very wasteful animal. They will take down a complete stalk and only eat a small portion of the crop before moving on to the next stalk.”
Hunting is a valuable solution to curb the wildlife crop damage problem.
However, the regulations on firearms and the cost of ammunition combined with the backlash of the government and groups like P.E.T.A., hunting, as well as firearms, have come under direct scrutiny.
“I have definitely seen a huge increase in the raccoon population,” Frankart said.
“The price of pelts used to be very high, but with groups like P.E.T.A. getting involved that has changed.
“The price is just now starting to go back up, but we have missed or skipped a hole generation of raccoon hunters and that has caused a problem,” he commented.
Raccoons and woodchucks cause the majority of their damage on soybeans when the crop is in a very young and in its vegetative stage. It is also more concentrated near or around woodlots.
“I have seen as many as eight to 10 rows of beans destroyed all the way around woodlots,” Frankart said. “I think deer sometimes get a bad rap for all the crop damage. Don’t get me wrong they do damage but not as much as the raccoons.”
Several factors tie into the increase of small-game animals. Possibly one of the biggest factors is the cost of hunting.
The price of ammunition is at an all-time high and continues to rise. There are several reasons for this increase, some tangible, some not as much.
Material and labor costs in the United States are a big factor. The price of copper and brass, major components in ammunition, both have increased heavily in the past several years, while fuel prices to deliver products is also at a record high.
These factors are only one part of the problem, however.
With yet another school shooting in Connecticut and the Presidents promise to impose higher and stiffer regulations on guns, prices of weapons and ammunition are only going to continue to increase.
“I have always allowed hunters on my property in hopes that they will thin out the raccoons and woodchucks,” said Frankart.
“Most of the time those interested have been younger hunters, but with the cost of ammunition at such a high cost even that is getting harder to find.”
Gary Bauer, who owns two Christmas tree farms in Norwalk, Huron County, said the pain of wildlife damage as well.
“Deer are a big problem for us at our farms,” he said in an interview in December.
“The bucks like to come in the early spring and rub the velvet off their racks on our trees. Christmas trees are very delicate if they get cut or nicked at all they die. So these bucks come in and can kill hundreds of trees in a very short time.”
With the possibility of stiffer regulations on guns and ammunition, ODNR’s problem of wildlife crop control damage will only increase.
“I have definitely seen a rise in damage due to animals,” Frankart said.
“I am not sure what the answer to this problem is.”