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Damage Prevention Options

The Ministry of Environment recognizes that wildlife can cause agricultural and property damage that can be stressful to manage. The ministry primarily manages wildlife populations through regulated hunting. Producers experiencing wildlife damage can receive compensation and assistance with prevention measures from the Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corporation.

Removing an animal may be necessary when they pose a threat to public health and safety, but this is not a permanent solution. Conflict with that one animal may be resolved, but if the conditions that attracted the animal remain unchanged, other animals may take its place. Permanent solutions to conflicts with wildlife require people to implement measures that prevent wildlife damage from occurring.

Ways you can limit wildlife damage

  • Never feed wildlife and keep your distance from them – this can cause animals to rely on human food, prevent them from getting proper nutrition and get accustomed to living close to people.
  • Set up prevention measures prior to winter. Food and shelter become scarce for wildlife, this is often when property damage occurs.
  • Plant vegetation that does not attract wildlife. Deer generally avoid aromatic plants, spiny or fuzzy foliage, or plants with a milk substance.
  • Secure buildings to prevent access to roofs, attics and crawlspaces.
  • Teach others (including children) about wildlife safety practices – these steps are effective when practiced by your entire community.

1. Hunting

The Ministry of Environment’s primary management strategy for controlling deer and moose is through regulated hunting.

The Ministry of Environment uses a science-based approach to set hunting quotas using the best available information, including aerial surveys, ground-based spotlight surveys, hunter harvest surveys, SGI collision reports, Saskatchewan Crop Insurance claims, stakeholder engagement and other data sources. Hunting seasons and quotas are reviewed annually and adjusted as needed to maintain sustainable populations.

Landowners experiencing wildlife damage are encouraged to permit hunter access to help moderate wildlife populations and reduce the potential for property damage over the winter.

Please note: The Wildlife Act doesn't authorize the owner of agricultural property to destroy deer, elk, caribou, moose, bison or pronghorn that are damaging or eating crops.


2. Barriers

Barriers, when erected properly, are the most effective method to reduce damage by wildlife. Sometimes they are the only option. Barriers restrict access to property susceptible to damage, including flowerbeds, shelterbelts, gardens and agricultural products.

For smaller areas, barriers can be as simple as placing burlap sacks or bedsheets over top of landscaping to prevent browsing. These should be staked in place to prevent deer from pulling them off. These options block the plant's access to sunlight, so are a temporary solution. For a more permanent solution, chicken or woven wire can be staked around landscaping using rebar. Wrap each plant from near the ground to the maximum height you expect to be browsed. Deer can reach to about 1.3 metres, while elk can reach to as much as 2.0 metres. This option is also suitable for young plants while they mature. For persistent wildlife, woven wire can be electrified to shock an animal when touched. Be sure to post warning signs if electric fencing is accessible to the public.

For larger areas, permanent fencing is the best option and can be either electric or non-electric. Either option should be at least eight feet high, with no gaps between the fence and the ground. Electric fencing should have multiple strands, alternating live and neutral. An alternative to an eight-foot-high electric fence is 3D fencing. This involves installing two fence lines, a couple of feet apart from each other. The outside fence should be short enough to prevent wildlife from crawling underneath. The inside fence should be taller to prevent wildlife from jumping over. Hybrid options are also possible, such as a non-electric fence with a strand of electric wire along the top.

Wildlife are smart. They may find ways through your fence at first. It is important to check and maintain fencing on a regular basis to ensure it hasn't been damaged and is functioning. Get creative to fill gaps where wildlife may be getting through. Try different fence configurations until it works.

Initially barriers can be expensive to install, but long-term they are cost effective, especially as a permanent solution for those experiencing chronic damage. Most wildlife damage occurs during the winter when food and shelter become more important to survive severe conditions. However, many permanent solutions cannot be installed during the winter. It is best to prevent damage before it starts by installing barriers during the summer.


3. Wildlife-Resistant Landscaping

Wildlife, such as deer, voles and rabbits, are attracted to many popular landscaping plants. It can be difficult to determine which plants are attractive to a species, and therefore difficult to choose less palatable plants. When deciding what to plant, consider which species most often damage your landscaping and choose plants that are unpalatable or resistant to damage by that species.

Here are some tips to keep in mind while choosing landscaping plants:

  • Native plants are better adapted to browsing by local wildlife and make a better choice for wildlife-resistant landscaping than their exotic counterparts.
  • Choose plants that resprout. These plants recover more rapidly from damage; those that don't resprout are incapable of regaining their original form. For example, many popular decorative cedar hedges are very poor at regaining their original form once browsed and should be avoided.
  • Choose plants that can be grown close together, such as a hedge. Wildlife won't be able to access all sides of the landscaping, and they are easier to protect with barriers.

If your preferred landscaping plants are palatable to wildlife, expect some damage to occur. There are some additional landscaping techniques that can reduce potential damage:

  • Prune plants to a form that eliminates access to the bottom half of the plant.
  • Protect young plants with barriers until they are big enough to prune out of reach.
  • Install posts around tree trunks to protect against wildlife rubbing up against them.

4. Guard Dogs

Leashed dogs can be used to deter deer from feeding on crops or damaging gardens and ornamental trees. Under Section 78 of The Wildlife Act, a person commits an offence if they cause or allow a dog to hunt or pursue wildlife.

5. Repellents

Repellents have an offensive taste or odour that discourages wildlife from feeding. They must be applied frequently and vigilantly prior to and during the period of anticipated damage to be effective. Repellents are not likely to be effective on large groups. Fencing is the best solution in these cases.

6. Scare Devices

Commercial scare devices are available at many nurseries and hardware stores. Municipal bylaws may limit the use of some scare devices, so always contact the local bylaw department before using audible scare devices.

Types of scare devices:

  • Motion detector scare devices activate lights and make sonic or ultrasonic noises. Most are sold as successful deterrents for small animals, such as dogs, cats, raccoons and occasionally deer. They are effective over a relatively small area due to the limited range of motion sensors (10 metres). Animals are not likely to become used to the noise or light.
  • Motion detectors can be wired into lawn sprinkler systems, providing an effective night-time water-based scare device. A certified electrician should do the wiring.
  • Commercial scare devices, such as propane exploder cannons, are also available. These devices produce very loud bangs at regular intervals, which drive away deer, elk and birds. They are only suitable for large areas and make too much noise for residential neighbourhoods.
  • Bangers or cracker shells fired from orchard launchers can be used to scare off animals.

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