Economic Impact of Deer Damage

A national survey conducted by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service in 1992 identified deer damage as the most widespread form of wildlife damage. Forty percent of the farmers reporting had experienced deer damage. No estimate exists of nationwide annual crop losses to deer, but damage estimates have been made for some states.

In Wisconsin, a 1984 survey of farmers suggested minimum statewide deer damage of $36.7 million annually. A similar study in Pennsylvania estimated the annual crop loss at $16 to $30 million. The situation is similar in most agricultural states with moderate to high deer densities. Estimates by Hesselton and Hesselton (1982) suggest that the cost of deer-vehicle collisions may exceed $100 million each year in the United States and Canada. In fact, the cost of deer/ vehicle collisions was estimated at $100 million in Wisconsin alone in 1990.

Deer also damage nurseries, landscape plantings, and timber regeneration. However, as established earlier, deer are a valuable public resource. Cost estimates for control techniques were presented with the appropriate techniques. A cost/benefit analysis is always advisable before initiating a control program.

Two additional economic aspects are worth consideration. One involves farmer tolerance for deer damage. Two summaries of social science research related to deer damage (Pomerantz et al. 1986, and Siemer and Decker 1991) demonstrated that a majority of farmers were willing to tolerate several hundred dollars in deer damage in exchange for the various benefits of having deer on their land. Thus “total damage” figures are misleading because only a small percentage of the farmers statewide or nationwide are suffering sufficient damage to warrant control or compensation.

The second economic consideration involves state-funded programs of subsidies for damage control materials or direct compensation for crop losses. Such programs can be very costly but are probably necessary where large deer herds are maintained in agricultural landscapes. As an example, the Wisconsin Wildlife Damage Program expended $2.25 million in 1992 for abatement materials, claims, and administration. The program is a collaborative effort of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, USDA-APHIS-ADC, and Wisconsin counties and is very effective. Individual states vary greatly, however, in their degree of financial or technical assistance. Consult your state wildlife agency for information on compensation or cost-sharing programs. Also, many states have local publications on deer and deer damage–Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, and New York, for example. Consult your local Extension office or state wildlife agency.

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