Wildlife Damage Control for Organic Farmers

Organic Agriculture July 17, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

eOrganic author:

James E. Knight, Montana State University

Most farmers have challenges related to crop damage due to wildlife pests. Wildlife Damage Control for Organic Farmers is a handbook describing non-chemical strategies for prevention and control of wildlife damage to gardens and crops. Nine individual species are covered:

  • Ground squirrels
  • Pocket gophers
  • Voles
  • Rabbits
  • Woodchucks
  • Deer
  • Skunks
  • Raccoons
  • Coyotes

There is also a general chapter on birds.

Many of the methods and techniques described for use by organic farms will be applicable to conventional farms as well. For example, preventing pocket gopher damage to high value crops has been a continual frustration. Information in this handbook describes specific traps, methods and timing of control that can be more efficient and cost effective than conventional methods (like toxicants).

Blackbirds and sparrows cause damage to many garden crops. Research and trials have shown that suspended monofilament lines will repel birds from gardens, structures and ponds. This technique has been demonstrated to exclude sparrows from strawberry gardens and blackbirds from high-value corn and other crops.

Another example is the use of modified fence designs to exclude deer from gardens and high value crops. Most farmers think of "deer proof fence" as the $10,000 per mile New Zealand net-wire designs. Research in Montana resulted in development of fence designs which use existing fences and modify them to exclude deer. The most effective design cost $1,500 per mile and was 100% effective. These are just some examples of strategies described in this handbook.

"Wildlife Damage Control for Organic Farmers" was developed as part of a project funded by Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (Western SARE). The handbook is available at: http://animalrange.montana.edu/documents/extension/WILDLIFEDAMAGECONTROLFORORGANICFARMERS.pdf.

NOTE: Before applying any pest control product, be sure to read and understand the safety precautions and application restrictions, and make sure that the brand name product is listed in your Organic System Plan and approved by your certifier. For more information see Can I Use this Product for Disease Management on my Organic Farm? In addition, check your state and local wildlife regulations. Fumigation with gasoline and exhaust is not permitted in organic farming.

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.