Wildlife Damage Control for Traditional and Organic Farmers

2013 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


This project addresses the increasing need for County and Reservation Extension educators and Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) personnel to provide education related to wildlife damage control on farms and ranches. In addition to requests from traditional farmers, there are increasing wildlife damage control needs from small acreage landowners and organic farmers. Organic farmers have limitations on how they can cope with pests, including wildlife pests. 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. This year we conducted training workshops for Extension and NRCS personnel in Idaho and Montana, completed demonstration sites on private farms and the Flathead Reservation and completed drafts of handbook material and videos.

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.



During this reporting period cooperators implemented and evaluated demonstration areas in Montana in Lewistown, Manhattan and on the Flathead Indian Reservation. 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.

Wildlife damage control workshops for Extension Agents in Montana and Idaho were held in each state in April. These workshops were designed to give agents a basic understanding of wildlife damage control and provide them with resources to address most questions their clientele might have. The intention was to provide some basic training, especially for those not able to attend the 2-day intensive workshop to be held in June. The Idaho workshop was held April 11, 2013 and 32 University of Idaho Extension Educators attended. The Montana workshop was held April 9, 2013 and 42 County and Reservation Agents attended.

A 2-day workshop was held in Bozeman, MT in June for Idaho and Montana, Extension educators and NRCS personnel. Various wildlife damage control techniques for birds, deer and rodents were demonstrated and participants implemented control strategies at several field sites.

Current project efforts include development of written and video materials. Publications on deer control and fencing evaluations are currently completed. Publications on voles, ground squirrels, pocket gophers, deer and bird control are currently being reviewed. These publications are part of a handbook and material that will be available on the eXtension website. Videos currently being edited are on ground squirrel control, skunk and pocket gopher control.

An online workshop for Extension and NRCS personnel throughout the 13 western states and Pacific Territories is scheduled for February 20, 2014. This 8-hour workshop will address species and associated problems that include ground squirrels, pocket gophers, voles, skunks, bats, deer, snakes, woodpeckers and other birds. Upon completion of this session, participants will be able to address most wildlife damage questions they receive from Extension clientele.

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. A great deal of research and data collection has been completed for wildlife damage control for conventional agriculture producers. A need has been identified for alternative pest control appropriate for traditional and organic farmers.


We have demonstrated that some of the same methods and techniques that can be used by organic farmers also provide relief for traditional farmers. 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. Our work and other 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.


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 is providing these professionals the training and tools to address the wildlife damage education needs of their clientele. The pre and post-workshop tests indicate a 25-30% increase in participant knowledge related to wildlife damage control. After the workshop there was a 65% increase in the number of participants who reported they had a moderate or great deal of knowledge related to wildlife damage control.


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