Controlling Wildlife Damage

To the passing robin or deer, your fruit garden appears appears to be a grocery store. In most cases, growers can tolerate a little damage from wildlife, but sometimes losses can become excessive if measures are not taken to control wildlife damage.

In general, fruit-eating birds such as robins and starlings and browsing mammals such as deer, voles, and rabbits are the most common wildlife problems in the home fruit garden.

Effective management begins by anticipating the extent of damage and responding with the appropriate control. Before deciding on a control method, if any, you should consider the cost and benefits of the control program. Economic costs are not the only costs that should be taken into consideration. Time constraints and the impacts of the control methods on other nontarget wildlife should be considered. In many instances, an integrated pest management (IPM) plan is the best approach.

Wildlife damage can be reduced and maintained at a tolerable level if the species causing damage is properly identified and control methods are implemented before a damage pattern is established. Anticipation of potential problems is the key to effective damage control. The use of a variety of control techniques is essential because the offending species can become accustomed to a single method.

Wildlife damage to fruit and fruit trees is a seasonal problem. In many instances, damage will occur only over a short time period of days or weeks. Control methods might be necessary only during those short time periods. Observation of damage and damage trends can reduce the time and money allocated to damage-control techniques.

On many farms or orchards, bird damage is minimal and growers choose to ignore the problem or just take the loss from birds into account as a management cost. For others, problems from birds can be substantial, resulting in the consumption of or damage to large portions of the fruit crop.

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Controlling Wildlife Damage

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