Whitetail deer were responsible for causing over $7 million in damages to Maryland farmers in 2013. Keep reading to learn what the state is doing about it.
When driving the roads in the regions of Maryland where farming is common, it is not unusual to see dozens of deer grazing in farmer's fields. Though not quite as bad as locusts, these hungry herds of deer are still capable of causing massive amounts of damage to crops.
According to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, deer cause $7-8 million dollars in crop damage each year, which is not uncommon in many states.
Max Dubansky, who owns and operates Backbone Food Farm in western Maryland, stated that it in previous years, it was not uncommon for him to see over 100 deer eating in his fields at once:
We were losing up to $1,000 in lettuce in one night. Something had to give.
Fortunately, the State of Maryland issues special permits to farmers suffering from deer depredation on their property. When a farmer reports having issues with deer, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources sends a biologist to the farm to evaluate the damage.
Depending on the size of the farm and the amount of damage being caused, the state may issue permits to the farmer, which allow the farmer to kill a certain number of deer.
These permits are issued to the farmer at no cost and allow the landowner to shoot deer outside of the regular deer season, though they may only be used on the specific farm that the permit was used for.
Farmers with these permits may choose to either shoot the deer themselves, or to allow others to do so using their permit.
All deer killed using these permits must be reported to the state using the same process that hunters use during the regular deer season. Luckily, the hunters who shoot deer using these permits may still keep all of the meat obtained from the deer.
The vast majority of these permits are for antlerless deer only. However, the state does occasionally issue permits for bucks when they are causing damage to trees in orchards by rubbing their antlers on them.
In 2012, the State of Maryland issued 1,636 permits and 1,655 in 2013. These permits were used to harvest 7,650 deer in 2012 and 8,505 in 2013.
Overall, the program is pretty popular among Maryland farmers. For instance, Mr. Dubansky uses an average of five permits a year. He also allows hunters to hunt on his farm during deer season. When used together, these two methods have been relatively effective at minimizing deer damage to his crops.
This seems like a "win-win" situation: the hunters get to shoot some venison for the freezers and the farmers get some assistance controlling animals damaging their crops.
Like what you see here? You can read more great hunting articles by John McAdams at The Big Game Hunting Blog. Follow him on Twitter @TheBigGameHunt.