Some years/some locations ungulate depredation, by deer, elk and waterfowl can be significant. The prevention of ungulate depredation must be considered prior to feed storage in the fall and well before winter.
Weather is a significant factor:
- Winter weather (extreme cold, snow depth and snow condition (crusted) can cause ungulates to seek out hay/silage for feed) is the single largest factor in determining the severity of depredation
- Drought conditions can reduce forage production creating feed shortages for livestock producers
- Fall harvest of grain and hay can be delayed by wet conditions
- Removal of hay/silage bales or grain piles from the field can be delayed due to wet conditions
- Having a secure stack yard (fenced) to protect hay or silage bales, and/or fenced silage piles/pits should be considered to prevent problems during winter months
- Move bales into a secure location (stack yard) as soon as possible
- If a secure stack yard is not being used, stack bales 2 tiers high with smooth sides facing out. Place a row of straw bales around the stacked hay
- Chase ungulates from stack yards as soon as they first appear
- Temporary "stack wrap" fencing is available on loan for short-term problem sites from Fish and Wildlife Enforcement offices
- Permanent 7' game-proof fencing is made available to producers with chronic wildlife depredation. The producer provides the posts and labour to construct the stack yard
- Producers considering swath grazing must be made aware that serious problems can arise in areas where ungulate densities are high. Swath grazing should not be considered in areas where there is the potential to attract ungulates and reduce forage available for livestock
- Grain should be stored in secure granaries. Grain piles should be protected and monitored until they can be removed to a secure location
- Grain bags will not exclude wildlife - bears can claw, deer and elk can paw through and ravens will peck holes in the bags to obtain grain. Grain bag storage should be fenced
- Alberta is a major breeding, staging and migration area for ducks and geese
- Within Alberta waterfowl populations depend on habitat in the midst of crop-producing areas
- Waterfowl depredation is highly variable from year to year and depends largely on harvest conditions
- During good harvest weather and with early fall harvest dates crops are combined within a few days of swathing and waterfowl do not have the opportunity to establish feeding patterns in cropped fields
- Alternatively, when fall harvest conditions are delayed or adverse weather prevents timely harvest, field-feeding patters can become established and the resulting damage can be significant
- Agricultural producers have several options to mitigate waterfowl damage, including:
- allowing hunters to access cropped fields
- using scaring devices such as scare cannons (available for free loan from most municipal district and county offices) and scare crows
- limiting the number of vulnerable crop acres swathed or using desiccation rather than swathing to dry down crops and then harvesting with straight-cut combining
- choosing less vulnerable crop types in more vulnerable fields
- Agricultural producers can also minimize waterfowl damage on crops by checking cropped fields regularly for signs of waterfowl and avoid early fall tillage of cropped fields so that waterfowl can utilize waste crop in stubble rather than move to unharvested crops
- Landowners can allow hunting during the regular fall hunting seasons to reduce ungulate and waterfowl numbers and provide negative conditioning of wildlife to feed sources.
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