Reporting Bill Hudson
ALTURA, Minn. (WCCO) - Farmers in Southeastern counties say their crops are under attack by herds of hungry deer.
While driving on county roads in the area around dusk, the sight of deer browsing in corn and soybean fields is quite common. And with deer numbers so high, their appetites are costing farmers thousands of dollars.
Vegetable growers, like Lonnie Dietz of Whitewater Gardens Farm, say there’s less produce to pick from due to the deer.
“They can do it in a hurry too. They can come out and take out 3,000 feet in a night,” said Dietz.
He’s talking about rows of crop loss – everything from beets and potatoes, to carrots, zucchini and squash.
“We’re trying to grow vegetables in their dining room, really,” he said.
On his farm alone, Dietz will lose between $5,000 and $10,000. Now, the Minnesota DNR is helping out farmers like Dietz.
The state is lending Dietz a solar powered electric fence to protect his most valuable crops. And within a year, he’ll install a permanent 10-foot-high fence to keep the deer from dining on his profits.
“As they touch it to go through or under it, they’ll get a zap. It’s electrified,” he said.
The DNR’s depredation program will also reimburse farmers up to $5,000 to install permanent fences to keep the deer out.
Dietz hopes to have his up by next growing season.
Other than sharing the cost of fencing what else can the DNR do to minimize the problem?
The DNR can also set harvest quotas to target areas where the deer are more numerous. Recently, hunters could take up to five deer a season.
Currently, the hunting quota in Dietz’s area is only one deer per season. This may soon be adjusted to further reduce the herd.