Wildlife feasted on North Carolina field crops last year, running up a tab of $29.4 million, according to a statewide survey by the state Agricultural Statistics Division.
Wildlife damaged $19 million worth of soybeans and $5.6 million worth of corn, Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in announcing the report. Damage to wheat, peanuts and cotton totaled $4.8 million.
“For some crops, animals can be as damaging as diseases, insects or the weather,” Troxler said. “And crop loss — regardless of how it occurred — can make a difference in profitability.”
Deer were the top gluttons. Ninety-two percent of soybean and cotton farms in the survey reported damage from deer. Deer also were the top foragers on 75 percent of peanut farms and 60 percent of wheat farms reporting damage.
“Bambi is a pest,” Troxler said.
The wildlife damage survey used a random sample of 1,200 North Carolina soybean, cotton, peanut, corn and wheat growers. The survey targeted only these field crops and was not designed to measure wildlife damage to other crops, such as vegetables, fruits and nursery plants. It was a cooperative effort of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, North Carolina Soybean Producers Association, North Carolina Small Grain Growers Association, North Carolina Peanut Growers Association, North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center and the state Wildlife Resources Commission.
Troxler said the report provides benchmark information that farm groups, wildlife authorities and policy makers can use in future discussions about dealing with wildlife’s threat to crops. The results will also benefit the Wildlife Resources Commission’s educational efforts with land owners.
Fifty-three percent of farms in the survey reported using hunting to prevent wildlife damage. The NCDA&CS has launched a Web site, “Hunt NC Farmland,” to match farmers and hunters. Farmers interested in leasing their land for hunting can post on the site, and hunters can look for farms to hunt on. The site is online at www.ncagr.gov/hunt.