Natural predators as a means to limit wildlife damage at the dairy-fruit interface

2016 Annual Report for FW14-012

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $24,287.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Region: Western
State: Washington
Principal Investigator:
John Steensma
Steensma Dairy

Natural predators as a means to limit wildlife damage at the dairy-fruit interface


We have completed an initial survey of dairy farmers in Washington State regarding bird and rodent damage on their farms, begun to estimate bird populations and damage on dairies adjacent to fruit in Whatcom County, have increased enhancements for native birds of prey on dairies and berry farms, and have hosted one producer meeting and one on-farm demonstration highlighting the results.  We have also reached out to 4H, FFA, and other youth with information on the project, placed a story on the WSU extension website, and made connections with a new organization called Whatcom Family Farmers for further dissemination of results.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Original objectives of the project proposal were as follows:
1. Estimate bird/rodent damage to dairies through farmer surveys.  The initial survey is completed, with some data analyzed and other data still being analyzed.

2. Measure numbers of pest birds and rodents at dairies and adjacent fruit fields through field data collection. Birds have been counted at cooperating dairies and adjacent fruit fields.  Though not insignificant, rodents were not perceived to be a problem by as many dairy farmers, and hence have not been counted.

3. Implement bio-control methods for managing problem birds and rodents in dairies/adjacent fruit.  Old kestrel nest boxes have been cleaned, repaired, and replaced, and new boxes added, on both dairies and berry farms.  Carrion feeding has been attempted at one dairy farm.  Falconry has been attempted at two dairy farms.

4. Estimate any changes in pest damage levels and raptor presence resulting from project implementation  These data are still being collected, although we did note that eagles and turkey vultures were definitely increased in the carrion feeding station trial

5. Host demonstration days at dairies.  One demonstration of falconry has been hosted at a dairy thus far. A meeting of producers, researchers and other interested people occurred as well.


We have accomplished much of what we listed in our objectives, although some items still remain. Please click links below to read a full description of what has been accomplished; there are linked files for both 2014 and 2015 activities.  There are also links to our 4H and FFA powerpoints (showing first slide only due to size limits for uploading files; presentations were actually 20 slides and 55 slides, respectively) Highlights:

  • Survey of bird and rodent damage completed by 41 dairies
  • 40 kestrel nest boxes restored and/or newly installed on farms and mapped with GPS
  • 175 4H, FFA, and other youth reached with presentations and demonstrations
  • Meeting of farmers and researchers to discuss and plan for future work
  • Demonstration of falconry on a dairy with 9 farmers attending
  • Owl nestbox cam installed online in 2015 nest season
  • Video footage of bird problems and falconry recorded
  • Pest bird data collected for 2 fall-winter seasons


Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

The problem of pest birds on dairies was much larger, and more serious in its implications, than we had expected when making this project proposal initially.  Although final outcomes of the project remain to be seen, there is greater knowledge of the project, and of beneficial raptors in general, amongst the Whatcom County farming community.  We have had other farmers contacting us for further information or nest box placement, simply because they heard about it from another farmer.  The Whatcom Family Farmers organization, a non-profit group representing dairy, berry and other farmers in the county, has embraced the idea of farms as providers of wildlife habitat and wishes to promote raptor enhancement as part of their educational outreach. One of the biggest outcomes is the additional support of two more researchers, Dr Adams-Progar of WSU and Dr Shwiff of USDA/APHIS, who visited the area, participated in a grower meeting, and subsequently worked with us to create a new research proposal submitted to WSARE (results pending). We will be attempting to complete as many tasks as possible during the remaining months of the project, and are encouraged by the enthusiasm of the Whatcom Family Farmers organization to assist us with disseminating the results locally.  WSU and the state dairy federation will continue to assist us in collecting data and disseminating results statewide.


Jeff DeJong

dairy owner
1159 Abbott Road
Lynden, WA 98264
Office Phone: 3603180794
Dr. Susan Kerr
Livestock Extension
16650 St Rt 536
Mount Vernon, WA 98273
Office Phone: 3608486151
John VanderVeen

dairy owner
9382 Van Buren Road
Lynden, WA 98264
Office Phone: 3609887477