Consistent efforts by depredation staff from the Magic Valley Region are showing successes in parts of the region to reduce chronic big game depredation on agricultural crops. While consistent prevention tactics have been shown to change wildlife behavior, there continues to be new and ongoing incidents of big game depredating on crops, primarily corn, throughout the Magic Valley.
During the summer of 2022, most depredation actions are occurring in Elmore, Jerome, Blaine and Lincoln counties, with elk causing the majority of crop damages. In many situations, depredations are occurring on irrigated crop lands that border public rangelands.
As in years past, the most common request for assistance from landowners involves elk moving onto their cultivated fields at night, which limits Fish and Game’s options to reduce damages. Elk in standing corn are an extremely challenging situation for wildlife managers given elk rarely leave standing corn and only during nighttime hours.
Mule deer depredation
Department staff are reducing their efforts at a local vineyard where chronic depredation by mule deer has been occurring to their grape crop. Continued and consistent hazing, coupled with selective herd removal efforts have been successful in achieving a reduced level of depredation on the grape crop.
Fish and Game is continuing to work with landowners and hunters as the first line of defense to deter big game from moving into agricultural fields where significant crop damage can and does occur. Depredation staff do have the ability to use lethal methods to reduce big game numbers in areas where active crop depredation is occurring.
Kill permits for 1-3 elk have also been issued to a select few landowners throughout the Region by Fish and Game. Kill permits are the last line of defense and only issued in situations where elk are not available for harvest during daylight hours. This tool allows landowners to assist in reducing big game numbers in an effort to alleviate, or eliminate wildlife that cause crop damage.
Fish and Game biologists are anticipating that big game will continue to move into and use agricultural crops over the coming weeks until harvest occurs. Increasing numbers of big game animals accessing and damaging crop lands may necessitate the Department to initiate additional management actions, including depredation hunts and landowner kill permits for antlerless animals, as well as hazing and sharp shooting by Department personnel. To date, the Department has lethally removed two elk and three mule deer. All animals were field dressed and will be professionally processed and donated to Idaho Hunters Feeding the Hungry who will distribute to local food pantries.
For more information, please call the Magic Valley Regional Office at (208) 324-4359.