Wildlife Damage Control for Traditional and Organic Farmers

2012 Annual Report for EW11-012

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2011: $96,053.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Western
State: Montana
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Jim Knight
Extension Wildlife Specialist

Wildlife Damage Control for Traditional and Organic Farmers


County and Reservation Extension educators and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel have increasing requests from organic farmers for information unique to organic farming. Coping with pests, including wildlife pests, are among the most common. Like the organic farmers themselves, Extension and NRCS personnel lack information on controlling wildlife pests on organic farms. The purpose of this project is to provide the training and materials needed to allow educators to address the vertebrate pest control needs of organic and traditional farmers.

Objectives/Performance Targets

As the result of this project and the training received by county and reservation Extension Educators, we estimate 3000 producers will be reached resulting in vertebrate pest control improvements on 300,000 acres.
Objective 1. (Short –term outcome) Determine vertebrate pest control methods that currently exist or which could be modified and developed for organic farmers.
Objective 2. (Short-term outcome) Identify suitability, economic costs, effectiveness and strategies to enhance usefulness of methods determined in Objective 1.
Objective 3. (Medium-term outcome) Increase the vertebrate pest control knowledge and skills of Extension Educators so they have the capacity to address the educational needs of both traditional and organic farmers.
Objective 4 (Long term outcome) Extension educators will educate farmers so they can implement legal, effective, efficient and environmentally safe vertebrate pest control practices which will increase profits of organic farmers through reduced crop losses due to vertebrate pests.


The principle investigator met with cooperators in March and demonstration areas were identified and then put in place in May. Sites were located in Sandpoint, Idaho and Manhattan and Lewistown, MT. Cooperator Diane Green, an organic farmer in Sandpoint, ID, conducted field tests of various methods of pocket gopher control. A farmer in Manhattan, MT, Gene Surber, conducted field trials of several methods of ground squirrel control on hayfields. Another cooperator in Lewistown Mt, Dave Phillips, utilized fence designs to demonstrate effective exclusion of deer from gardens.
Videos and pictures were taken for production of educational materials. Videos for production of podcasts were taken and these are currently in the editing stage.
Various wildlife damage control techniques for birds, deer and rodents were demonstrated at a meeting of the Idaho Organic Farmers field day in Sandpoint, Idaho on July 22. Diane Green, one of the Project Cooperators presented information on techniques to control rodents and raptors. Pre and post-workshop tests indicate a 23% increase in participant knowledge related to wildlife damage control. After the workshop there was a 46% increase in the number of participants who reported they had a moderate or great deal of knowledge related to wildlife damage control.
A field training session for County Extension Agents in Montana was held October 30. At this session various wildlife damage control techniques for birds, deer, bear and rodents were demonstrated. Pre and post workshop tests were used to determine knowledge gained. Participants had a 26.5 % increase in knowledge related to wildlife damage control.
Farmers and private operators were asked to share unique wildlife damage control ideas not commonly reported in the literature. As these are identified, they are reviewed by a team of university and federal wildlife professionals to identify scientific merit. This team of colleagues are members of the Wildlife Damage Management Working Group of The Wildlife Society (TWS), the worldwide professional organization of wildlife managers, researchers and biologists. These reviews will be used to determine which techniques will be used in training workshops next summer.
Current project efforts include development of written and video materials. Three publications; vole, ground squirrel, and pocket gopher control, are currently being reviewed. Videos currently being edited are on ground squirrel control, skunk and pocket gopher control. Initial writing has started on deer fencing, bear exclusion, vole control and bird control.

Workshops to train Extension educators in Montana and Idaho on wildlife damage control are scheduled for April 10th and 11th respectively.

This spring, field tests for ground squirrel control will be held in Manhattan, MT and for pocket gophers in Haines, ID. A deer exclusion demonstration plot is scheduled to be put on the Flathead Reservation this spring.

A 2-day workshop for Extension educators and NRCS is being planned for August 2113. This workshop will provide more intensive training for participants who will be able to serve as wildlife damage control resource people in their states.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Most farmers have challenges related to crop damage due to wildlife pests. Organic farmers have additional challenges because they cannot use chemical controls which are sometimes the most effective and efficient options. Another problem for both traditional and organic farmers is the lack of comparative economic and effectiveness information that would help them make decisions related to vertebrae pest control. A great deal of research and data collection has been completed for conventional agriculture producers. A need has been identified for alternative pest control appropriate for traditional and organic farmers.

Interestingly, the same methods and techniques that could be used by organic farmers will provide relief for traditional farmers as well. Traditional farmers will benefit from new information providing options to control wildlife damage. For example, preventing pocket gopher damage to high value crops has been a continual frustration. New research has found specific traps, methods and timing of control can be more efficient and cost effective than traditional methods using toxicants.
County and Reservation Extension educators and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) have increasing requests from organic farmers for information unique to organic farming. Coping with pests, including wildlife pests, are among the most common. Like the organic farmers themselves, Extension and NRCS personnel lack information on controlling wildlife pests on organic farms.
Both traditional and organic farmers and leadership in the Montana and Idaho organic farmer associations have been and will continue to be involved in the planning and conducting of the training in this project. They are involved in the farm demonstrations and in conducting training workshops.
This project will directly benefit producers or consumers in the Western region it will:
1. Promote good stewardship of natural resources by providing profitable, effective and environmentally safe methods of vertebrate pest control. (WSARE Goal 1).
2. Enhance the quality of life for farmers and ranchers by increasing income through reduced loss of crops to vertebrate pests. (WSARE Goal 2).
3. Provide for the health and safety of those involved in food and farm systems by reducing the use of toxic materials for vertebrate pest control. (WSARE Goal 3).
4. Promote crop and enterprise diversification by allowing organic production where vertebrate pests have previously restricted options. (WSARE Goal 4).
5. Reduce negative economic and environmental implications of vertebrate pests to enhance sustainability of agricultural systems. (WSARE Goal 5).

Extension educators and NRCS personnel in Montana and Idaho are a major source of unbiased scientific information for all farmers including organic farmers. This project will provide these professionals the training and tools to adequately address the wildlife damage education needs of farmers.


Dr. Paul McCawley

Associate Director
University of Idaho Extension
Ag Sciences Bldg. Rm 50
Moscow, ID 83844-2332
Office Phone: 2088855883
Duane Griffith

Farm Management Specialist
MSU Extension
210 Linfield Hall
Montana State University
Bozeman, MT 59717
Office Phone: 4069942580
Gene Surber

350 Bull Run Rd.
Belgrade, MT 59714
Office Phone: 4062849037
Lauren Hunter

Extension Educator
University of Idaho- Blaine County
302 First Avenue South
Hailey, ID 83333
Office Phone: 2087885585
Rene Kittle

Extension Agent
MSU Flathead Reservation Extension
701 B 1st Street
Polson, MT 59860
Office Phone: 4062752756
Diane Green

Organic Farmer
Greentree Naturals
2003 Rapid Lightning Road
Sandpoint, ID 83864
Office Phone: 2082638957
Website: www.greentreenaturals.com