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Deer Damage, New Bills Spark Debate in Montana

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February 14, 2013

Deer Damage, New Bills Spark Debate in Montana

By Chad Love

A pair of bills just introduced in the Montana state house that would give more local control over big-game regulations are raising red flags with that state's outdoorsmen.

From this story in the Billings Gazette:
Two bills that would give counties more control over big-game populations are being opposed by sporting groups and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, submitted House Bills 375 and 376 to allow more local control over impacts from deer, elk and antelope that forage on agricultural land. HB375 would make FWP reimburse landowners for crop damage; HD376 would allow counties to present plans to FWP to lethally remove big game in counties, similar to Helena’s ongoing effort to trap and kill deer within the city limits. Ballance said she’s not trying to take away FWP’s authority to manage big game. However, she said her Ravalli County constituents are frustrated. “My bills are intended to give farmers and ranchers some relief from the deer damage they’re experiencing,” Ballance said. “… I’m here to tell you this is a serious problem. It’s been talked about for 30 years and it’s not gone away. The remedies are not working.”

According to the story, proponents of the bill argue that hay and crop producers have no recourse for compensation from deer and elk eating their crops like livestock producers do for predation, while opponents counter that landowners already have many options, from state-aided fencing programs to noisemakers to late-season hunts to remove big game,and that using sportsmens' dollars to pay farmers for crop damage is a bad idea.

Thoughts? Would this set a dangerous precedent in regard to wildlife management?

Comments (18)

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Yes it would set a very dangerous precedent. It is important for politicians to satisfy their constituents, but it is even more important for politicians to consult with experts upon matters that are beyond their own expertise. Politicians are not wildlife management experts. It takes at least 5 years of advanced education in wildlife management and several years of experience to be deemed a wildlife expert, and I haven't met a politician yet that has met those requirements.

When politicians start creating policy to manage wildlife in response to emotional constituents, scientifically based management will be thrown out the window. This will open avenues for politicians to manage wildlife however they please based on the opinions of their constituents rather than what is best for the resource and society as a whole. We saw this in NJ with bears when the Governor outlawed bear season.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Ravalli County is mostly overrun with transplant non-resident thirty acre hobby farms now. The few big so-called farming operations left are largely owned by celebrities who don't allow public hunting or any hunting. Or it's all pay-for-hunting land. I don't feel sorry for that Rep's constituents. Not one bit. The Bitterroot Valley is the poster child of disgusting land use management. To think of also turning wildlife management over to those fools ... well, it sends shivers down my spine. I hope the eastern ranching block will step up and squash this one.

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from MidnightBanjo wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Seems to me like they want a guarantee on their "crops". As someone from Oklahoma, I know that there is no such thing. I would think that this is just one of those things that you need to consider when planning a farm. You have to allow for some crops not to make, or be unusable, or be a loss of some sort. To think that you will get EVERYTHING back you put into the ground is a bit naive, but expecting someone else to pay for it, whatever the reason for the loss, is just silly.

Maybe, if the problem is over population, they could just increase the harvest totals for the species that seem to be doing the most damage. Sell more tags! Is that too simple?

I agree with Bioguy01. Let the people that know what they are doing make the call.

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from Rancherfish wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

I say if there is that much wild life, have special hunt thinning them out. That way game departments receive license fees, farmers get a little relief. If the ones that complain won't allow any hunting, TUFF then it is their problem to fence them out.

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from lang123 wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Asian dating --Flower of the sea, we are as catching phase mix. www.lilydating.com

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Rancherfish, you hit the nail on the head. In the Bitterroot Valley the landowners want to have their own little piece of paradise and don't like hunters or just want hunting accessible to a few. Then they whine about crop damage. What crops? Their forty acres of hay? Pffft! Boo-hoo to them! Serves em right. That end of the state is so messed up it's terminally ill as far as game management goes. It will do no good to throw more licenses into the mix if there's no place to hunt.

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from Jan J. Mudder wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I'm not from the area, and I have no familiarity with it, but I did grow up on a farm, and I know the resentment that is fed when livestock hammer your crops all year-round, but people from elsewhere--with almost nothing invested in the state deer herd, for example--show up and tell you that, basically, your farm (and the work to run it) exists so that they can shoot the wildlife that live on it. There's a balance to these things, and it's almost always being tugged in all directions, and it's a miracle when it's anywhere close to something that's good for the whole. It's easy to be dismissive of wealthy people whose hobby farm crops are slightly damaged, but it's also a convenient excuse to dismiss the fact that most of the non-mountain game you shoot was raised at the cost of someone else's livelihood.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Jan, I agree with another poster up above. Game damaging crops is akin to wind, rain, or drought damage. It's a natural thing that is to be expected. When the damage becomes excessive due to commercialization of hunting and/or elimination of publicly accessible hunting, then the problem becomes not one of nature's doing but one that's the rancher/farmer's doing. And those guys who do that don't get any sympathy from me. No more than over-investing in equipment they don't need, buying more land than they can handle, poor fencing maintenance, poor crop rotation, improper feeding, or a host of other bad business practices available to them that are not related to natural phenomenon.

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from elkslayer wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Farmers around here complain about crop damage from elk so the fish and game dept started early season rifle cow elk hunts to lower the population. The only problem is the farmers refuse to give access to the hunters who could help them. Instead they demand to be able to kill several elk for themselves.

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from sjsmarais@gmail.com wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I thought the wolves had decimated the elk herds.

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from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The wolves won't chase them around the Bitterroot Valley subdivisions. And the elk have figured that one out.

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from hutter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The wildlife was there first. They should be able to eat anything they want. The farmers just want the sayso. The farmer should be able to reap a bit of the reward but Montana raised the price of hunting so you won't get any from me

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MICHMAN wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Yes, I believe it would set a dangerous precedent in wildlife management. Wildlife Managers already get enough opposition from the various animal rights groups who influence politicians into introducing laws that restrict scientific game management principles. Several examples exist. Look at the current opposition of implementing wolf and grizzly bear seasons even though these animals are expanding in numbers beyond the capability of their habitat and losing their fear of man.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from tneal1987 wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The problem is not necessarily that there are too many deer or elk the problem is that the landowners charge so much money to let people come in and harvest deer or elk therefore no one comes and pays and the animals forage. I have seen deer all winter eat tons of $200 a ton hay, this is a problem. I see both sides of the arguement and do not know the answer, except it would help of locals were more williong to allow outsiders on to hunt their property.

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from jay wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Why are they showing elk in the photo of a story titled deer damage?

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from ohiodeerhunter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I want to know the same thing as Jay above posted-why is there a picture of elk above a story about deer causing crop damage?

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from ohiodeerhunter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I want to know the same thing as Jay above posted-why is there a picture of elk above a story about deer causing crop damage?

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from Jan J. Mudder wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Farming is one of the strangest occupations in that a "successful" farmer almost has to inherit land and equipment to make it financially because the investment in capital is so incredibly out of proportion to the return on the capital. It's fairly common for farmers of my father's generation to spend their entire working life buried in debt, and they often lived right on either side of the poverty level as far as income. If they sold off their land and equipment at retirement, they suddenly become wealthy (oh, and they usually qualify as being in the "top 10%" for that year, so they get nailed with taxes) ... then they die within a few years, or all of that money is blown on nursing home care if they have medical issues.

My dad wasn't even that successful. He only paid off his farm because a great uncle died and left him enough to pay off the mortgage--this was 4 years ago.

If you were a farmer or rancher, and any of the people who have shown the disdain that has been shown at times above asked to hunt on your land, what would you tell them? I know that people try to profit from allowing hunters on their ground--then again, it is their ground. Go buy some yourself and let's see how many of us you let come and hunt it.

Ontario, it's easy to rationalize that they should be able to spend more to mitigate the problem--in many cases they could, I'm sure--but the people that actually are family farmers often have every spare cent already tied up in capital, so it's not as easy as it sounds. A good friend of mine grew up on a ranch that was approximately 15 square miles of dry pasture land. To keep their cattle, they had a bulldozer and maintainer/road grader for roads; a Piper Cub for checking the cattle and flying for medicine, etc.; close to a million dollars in ag equipment (combine, tractors, etc.) They had inherited the land, which was in the family since the turn of the 20th century, and they lived constantly in debt. They didn't spend a lot of money, and their equipment was functional rather than anything nicer than necessary. If they sold it all, they'd be millionaires ... but then what?

It's not as simple as many posters here want to believe.

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from Bioguy01 wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Yes it would set a very dangerous precedent. It is important for politicians to satisfy their constituents, but it is even more important for politicians to consult with experts upon matters that are beyond their own expertise. Politicians are not wildlife management experts. It takes at least 5 years of advanced education in wildlife management and several years of experience to be deemed a wildlife expert, and I haven't met a politician yet that has met those requirements.

When politicians start creating policy to manage wildlife in response to emotional constituents, scientifically based management will be thrown out the window. This will open avenues for politicians to manage wildlife however they please based on the opinions of their constituents rather than what is best for the resource and society as a whole. We saw this in NJ with bears when the Governor outlawed bear season.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Rancherfish wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

I say if there is that much wild life, have special hunt thinning them out. That way game departments receive license fees, farmers get a little relief. If the ones that complain won't allow any hunting, TUFF then it is their problem to fence them out.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from MICHMAN wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Yes, I believe it would set a dangerous precedent in wildlife management. Wildlife Managers already get enough opposition from the various animal rights groups who influence politicians into introducing laws that restrict scientific game management principles. Several examples exist. Look at the current opposition of implementing wolf and grizzly bear seasons even though these animals are expanding in numbers beyond the capability of their habitat and losing their fear of man.

+1 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Ravalli County is mostly overrun with transplant non-resident thirty acre hobby farms now. The few big so-called farming operations left are largely owned by celebrities who don't allow public hunting or any hunting. Or it's all pay-for-hunting land. I don't feel sorry for that Rep's constituents. Not one bit. The Bitterroot Valley is the poster child of disgusting land use management. To think of also turning wildlife management over to those fools ... well, it sends shivers down my spine. I hope the eastern ranching block will step up and squash this one.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from MidnightBanjo wrote 1 year 9 weeks ago

Seems to me like they want a guarantee on their "crops". As someone from Oklahoma, I know that there is no such thing. I would think that this is just one of those things that you need to consider when planning a farm. You have to allow for some crops not to make, or be unusable, or be a loss of some sort. To think that you will get EVERYTHING back you put into the ground is a bit naive, but expecting someone else to pay for it, whatever the reason for the loss, is just silly.

Maybe, if the problem is over population, they could just increase the harvest totals for the species that seem to be doing the most damage. Sell more tags! Is that too simple?

I agree with Bioguy01. Let the people that know what they are doing make the call.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from lang123 wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Asian dating --Flower of the sea, we are as catching phase mix. www.lilydating.com

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Rancherfish, you hit the nail on the head. In the Bitterroot Valley the landowners want to have their own little piece of paradise and don't like hunters or just want hunting accessible to a few. Then they whine about crop damage. What crops? Their forty acres of hay? Pffft! Boo-hoo to them! Serves em right. That end of the state is so messed up it's terminally ill as far as game management goes. It will do no good to throw more licenses into the mix if there's no place to hunt.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jan J. Mudder wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I'm not from the area, and I have no familiarity with it, but I did grow up on a farm, and I know the resentment that is fed when livestock hammer your crops all year-round, but people from elsewhere--with almost nothing invested in the state deer herd, for example--show up and tell you that, basically, your farm (and the work to run it) exists so that they can shoot the wildlife that live on it. There's a balance to these things, and it's almost always being tugged in all directions, and it's a miracle when it's anywhere close to something that's good for the whole. It's easy to be dismissive of wealthy people whose hobby farm crops are slightly damaged, but it's also a convenient excuse to dismiss the fact that most of the non-mountain game you shoot was raised at the cost of someone else's livelihood.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Jan, I agree with another poster up above. Game damaging crops is akin to wind, rain, or drought damage. It's a natural thing that is to be expected. When the damage becomes excessive due to commercialization of hunting and/or elimination of publicly accessible hunting, then the problem becomes not one of nature's doing but one that's the rancher/farmer's doing. And those guys who do that don't get any sympathy from me. No more than over-investing in equipment they don't need, buying more land than they can handle, poor fencing maintenance, poor crop rotation, improper feeding, or a host of other bad business practices available to them that are not related to natural phenomenon.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from elkslayer wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Farmers around here complain about crop damage from elk so the fish and game dept started early season rifle cow elk hunts to lower the population. The only problem is the farmers refuse to give access to the hunters who could help them. Instead they demand to be able to kill several elk for themselves.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from sjsmarais@gmail.com wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I thought the wolves had decimated the elk herds.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Ontario Honker ... wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The wolves won't chase them around the Bitterroot Valley subdivisions. And the elk have figured that one out.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from hutter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The wildlife was there first. They should be able to eat anything they want. The farmers just want the sayso. The farmer should be able to reap a bit of the reward but Montana raised the price of hunting so you won't get any from me

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from tneal1987 wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

The problem is not necessarily that there are too many deer or elk the problem is that the landowners charge so much money to let people come in and harvest deer or elk therefore no one comes and pays and the animals forage. I have seen deer all winter eat tons of $200 a ton hay, this is a problem. I see both sides of the arguement and do not know the answer, except it would help of locals were more williong to allow outsiders on to hunt their property.

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from jay wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

Why are they showing elk in the photo of a story titled deer damage?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ohiodeerhunter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I want to know the same thing as Jay above posted-why is there a picture of elk above a story about deer causing crop damage?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from ohiodeerhunter wrote 1 year 8 weeks ago

I want to know the same thing as Jay above posted-why is there a picture of elk above a story about deer causing crop damage?

0 Good Comment? | | Report
from Jan J. Mudder wrote 1 year 7 weeks ago

Farming is one of the strangest occupations in that a "successful" farmer almost has to inherit land and equipment to make it financially because the investment in capital is so incredibly out of proportion to the return on the capital. It's fairly common for farmers of my father's generation to spend their entire working life buried in debt, and they often lived right on either side of the poverty level as far as income. If they sold off their land and equipment at retirement, they suddenly become wealthy (oh, and they usually qualify as being in the "top 10%" for that year, so they get nailed with taxes) ... then they die within a few years, or all of that money is blown on nursing home care if they have medical issues.

My dad wasn't even that successful. He only paid off his farm because a great uncle died and left him enough to pay off the mortgage--this was 4 years ago.

If you were a farmer or rancher, and any of the people who have shown the disdain that has been shown at times above asked to hunt on your land, what would you tell them? I know that people try to profit from allowing hunters on their ground--then again, it is their ground. Go buy some yourself and let's see how many of us you let come and hunt it.

Ontario, it's easy to rationalize that they should be able to spend more to mitigate the problem--in many cases they could, I'm sure--but the people that actually are family farmers often have every spare cent already tied up in capital, so it's not as easy as it sounds. A good friend of mine grew up on a ranch that was approximately 15 square miles of dry pasture land. To keep their cattle, they had a bulldozer and maintainer/road grader for roads; a Piper Cub for checking the cattle and flying for medicine, etc.; close to a million dollars in ag equipment (combine, tractors, etc.) They had inherited the land, which was in the family since the turn of the 20th century, and they lived constantly in debt. They didn't spend a lot of money, and their equipment was functional rather than anything nicer than necessary. If they sold it all, they'd be millionaires ... but then what?

It's not as simple as many posters here want to believe.

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