OFA seeks info, photos of crop damage caused by wildlife

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PROVIDENCE BAY – As has been the case at the Manitoulin North Shore Federation of Agriculture annual general meetings over the past few years, the issue of wildlife damage to farmers crops was once again raised again last Friday in Providence Bay. Members of the OFA introduced a new OFA wildlife survey and implored local members and farmers who have, or are having, problems with wildlife destroying their crops to provide information and to send in pictures documenting the damage that has been caused.

“At our (OFA) caucus meeting last fall, damage caused by Sandhill cranes was the main issue brought up as being the cause of a problem among farmers in terms of crop damage,” said Mark Kunkel of the OFA. “This past Tuesday the OFA decided that we need to have our own survey done (throughout the province) to provide information and photos of the damage that is being caused by wildlife.”

Stephanie Vanthof, a member services representative for the area told the meeting, “we hear a lot of complaints about wildlife damage. But we don’t have enough data to take (to the powers to be) to have any action considered (on wildlife damage).” She introduced the new OFA survey and once it has enough data (and photographs of damage done to crops) sent by members, “we’ll present this along with the information we have already gathered to present to the ministries and government.”

“I have a bigger problem with Canada geese than Sandhill cranes,” said Bud Wilkin, a Little Current farmer. “They come in and clear my field and crops.” He told the meeting he has sent his concerns to the province. 

“You and other farmers need to take pictures of all of this and provide data on the damage that has been done,” said Mr. Kunkel. “We need this to provide a measurement of the demand for something to be put in place to curb this problem with wildlife damage.”

Mr. Wilkin said some days he will see 10 geese swoop down on his crops and the next day it can be as many as 50 or more and once he can get them off his property using any alternatives he has at his disposal they come back in stronger numbers shortly after. “Every year it just gets worse and I can’t shoot them because then I get trouble from the police,” he said. 

Al Emiry, president of the Manitoulin-North Shore OFA said, “for the OFA to lobby the government for changes to be made we need data,  information and any pictures farmers may have of the damage that is being down to their crops by wildlife. The OFA needs to be able to say here is the damage that is caused. I know year after year wildlife damage is part of our lobbying of the government.”

“How can you say exactly how much damage has been caused?”asked Mr. Wilkin.

“You can’t measure exactly, but try to be as accurate and for instance if you have 300 acres of property and crops on all of them, indicate how much has been damaged,” said Ms. Vanthof. 

“Before everyone leaves tonight take five minutes and fill out the survey,” suggested Mr. Emiry. 

The survey, which is available online on the OFA website states in part, “this survey is intended for OFA members that are crop producers. The purpose of the survey is to quantify the economic damage to Ontario crops caused by wildlife for the 2018 growing season. Additionally, we intend to use the results to assess which species are causing the damage and what (if any) measures can be taken to limit the crop damage caused by wildlife. This survey is an important first step in helping the OFA collect data on the size and scope of wildlife crop damage in Ontario.”

A copy of the survey is on the OFA website, or you can contact Ms. Vanthof for a copy at stephanie.vanthof@ofa.on.ca.