MOUNT VERNON — Damage caused by wildlife — especially deer — to farm crops, gardens and landscaping has been part of the dichotomy between rural and urban living.
Where deer cause damage to nurseries, orchards, farm crops or landscape plants, the Division of Wildlife can offer several preventative and control alternatives to landowners experiencing the damage.
Although there are a number of nonlethal means to reduce damage done by deer, only a few have any kind of effectiveness. And those can have limited usefulness where there is a large amount of damage as would be the case with farm crop damage.
In Knox County — as in many other places — the method of choice is deer control programs using bow hunting to reduce the deer population and therefore, the damage.
“If we didn’t have deer damage permits we would have a lot of angry farmers,” said Mike Miller, Knox County Wildlife Officer. “Basically 99.9 percent (of damage done by deer) is agricultural crop damage. There is very very little that is done to trees and shrubs and flowers. It is mostly soybeans and corn for the most part.”
Over the last three years there have been more than 1,000 deer taken each year on damage control permits, in Knox County. According to Miller, the yearly totals in the county were 1,038 in 2007, 1,001 in 2008 and 1,169 in 2009. ODNR keeps track of all deer taken whether during regular hunting seasons or from damage control permits.
Farmers or other landowners can seek special permits to hunt deer for the purpose of reducing the number in a specific area with a resulting reduction in crop damage. This is handled, in general, through the Knox Soil & Water Conservation District, an arrangement with ODNR which frees up their resources to do department’s law enforcement duties. The program is handled by Jarrod Hittle.