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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Are wildlife-caused losses of agriculture increasing?


Both the percent of producers reporting and the value of wildlife-caused losses increased from 1989 to 1994. In 1994, 58% of respondents reported wildlife-caused losses of their agricultural commodities, an increase from the 55% of respondents who reported losses in 1989. Based on the median value of producer-estimated loss, wildlife-caused losses cost producers approximately $591 million in 1994, $130 million more than in 1989. Losses based on producer estimates have been consistent with field-measured estimates of damage. While these losses represent 1% of the value of agricultural production, losses were not evenly distributed and 23% of producers estimated losses of >$500, an amount that is psychologically significant if not also economically significant. While catfish losses to wildlife were 4% of the total sale value of catfish in 1996, the losses were equivalent to one-sixth to one-third of the average catfish producers’ profit. Producers’ ability to predict the location of their crop losses as well as consistent patterns of losses based on field assessments suggests that wildlife managers may be able to develop models of wildlife damage that would allow them to better assist producers in planning agricultural production so that wildlife-caused losses are reduced. Given the increasing populations of many wildlife species and the declining habitat base for supporting those populations, wildlife managers will need to increasingly rely on cooperative relationships with agricultural producers. Management of wildlife damage relative to agricultural needs will increasingly challenge the wildlife profession in the coming years. Wildlife managers must recognize the magnitude and distribution of wildlife-caused damage to agriculture and consider both perceptions and damage in their decisions about wildlife management.

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