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How to attract wildlife, and discourage "wild life": dealing with trespassers.

Landowners routinely face trespassers. To handle the situation, one must gather as much ammunition as possible.

A subscriber complains of difficulties enforcing property rights and bemoans the lack of wildlife on her property. To help turn the tide, I offer the following suggestions.

First, identify the species of animals and plants common to your area. A square mile is quite small in nature even though a multitude of wildlife may be present. Is there a varied microcosm or is the acreage composed predominantly of the same terrain and vegetation? Are species living symbiotically or competing against one another? What is presently viewed as raw nature may have been the result of alterations by man decades ago. Further alterations may be necessary now.

Second, take time to research wildlife management. This will help you understand what habitat is required by wildlife of your region. Wooded land may provide cover for animals without providing a proper habitat. Adequate food, water and shelter, including nesting areas, are necessary for healthy wildlife. Know the carrying capacity of the land. Deer do not disappear due to hunting, they disappear because the land cannot sustain them. We harvest at least two deer per season and still have an abundance.

Befriend your local game warden

Third, become friends with your game warden. If your only contact is when you complain, you may never get a grip on the situation. My husband and I routinely visit with our Wildlife and Parks agents. Information is provided free each year, outlining regulations for hunting, fishing and trapping. Even if you do not wish to hunt, the information can be of value in successfully dealing with hunters. The game warden can also help determine why your wildlife population is low. State offices provide information on migratory patterns, restoration projects, wildlife plots, and other topics of interest.

Confrontational behavior generally leads to reaction, so make a point of being proactive. Remember, trespassers can feel embarrassed when caught where they are not welcome. Be selective in the signs you post. Threatening signs rarely serve their purpose and sometimes send a challenge to scofflaws.

Hunting by permission only

In Kansas, we post signs that read, "Hunting, fishing, and trapping by written permission only." This returns the power to the landowner. By requiring written permission, the game warden has authority to act if he finds trespassers on your land. In addition, the game warden will confiscate any unlawfully harvested animals as they belong to the state.

My husband and I have successfully dealt with unwanted hunters by explaining that because we run livestock we enforce strict control over hunting practices to prevent accidents. Our ominous looking horned cattle help get the point across. We offer limited hunting each season, but require hunters to obtain written permission in advance. Then we explain how we're sorry that this year's harvest quota has been filled but if the hunters would like to leave their names, phone numbers and driver's license numbers, they would be considered for the next season.

This leaves no room to argue about how their granddaddy always hunted here or that Jim Bob said it was okay. Stating our rules this way allows everyone to save face. Poachers will usually leave pronto, and honorable hunters will jump at the opportunity to obtain permission. Sometimes hunters are unaware that permission can no longer be honored. If allowed to hunt unrestricted in the past, it is reasonable to assume hunting is still allowed, even if the landowner thought permission was being granted for one time only. Simply state your rules to clarify the issue.

We faced poachers who had been asked not to hunt just two weeks previously on another of our pastures. The first time we encountered them we were understanding. After all, we had only recently purchased the land and knew hunting had occurred for years. The second time we were annoyed. The poachers were belligerent but left as we too were armed. That is when my husband and I contacted and met with our game warden. We asked for his advice on how to handle the problem. The written permission signs went up the following day. Signs are distributed free from our Wildlife and Parks office.

Our new signs angered one particular neighbor who previously had free range. Funny thing though, he never bothered to ask permission. He simply never spoke to us again. We now exchange hunting privileges with other neighbors and their relatives, granting permission for a certain season (deer, turkey, quail, etc.), definite day (one day, two days, week), and specific area. Going over these specifics reinforces our wishes and helps reduce the possibility of accidents. City friends enjoy getting out to the country and offer a portion of their harvest in gratitude. We make certain everyone has their permission forms before heading out.

Signs must be reposted periodically. High winds can tear even metal signs away from their posts. Trees do not make good places to post signs as they can suffer damage from the process. Comer posts, fence gates or utility poles make good choices. You might consider a fancy sign with your name or your farm's name, permission message, and phone number. This encourages adherence to your rules by presenting you as a negotiating authority rather than a close-minded humbug.

Errant hunters are not the only trespassers one might encounter. People hiking through the countryside often cross boundary lines. They might just want a closer look at something on your land such as a rare plant or bird. They might be hunting mushrooms and forget their manners in the heat of discovery. Others purposely violate property rights for their political agenda and should be prosecuted. Trespassers sometimes must be dealt with by force.

We are thankful for the patrolling coon dogs whose baying keeps predatory raccoons away, even if tracking time is brief. Without them, coons will come into the yard looking for our turkeys and peafowl. Coyotes are common but so far have dined on rabbits, mice and the like. A cougar killed one of our newborn calves last year. With a migratory pattern encompassing a 200 mile range, we expect the cougar back at some point. Snakes and rats will take eggs from setting hens while owls go after any bird they can. This is a part of nature we learn to accept.

Game animals must be harvested periodically to prevent overpopulation. As difficult as this is for some humans to accept, a grave injustice to wildlife results from ignoring this precept. Human habitation is the greatest threat to habitat loss. Animal rights activists have virtually destroyed the fur market, not to mention people's livelihoods. Even worse though, the lowered market for fur has resulted in overpopulation of furbearers. The resulting overpopulation of coyotes has contributed to the outbreak of mange as the animals vie for the same territory. Overpopulation of raccoons resulted in an epidemic of rabies, threatening wildlife, domestic animals and human health. Expansion beyond the carrying capacity of the land can lead to slow, agonizing death for animals whether observed by humans or not. Human ignorance is one of the greatest threats to healthy wildfife. Hunting provides the necessary balance.

Dealing with the insensitive is a fact of life. Being firm and decisive will get you further than will angry confrontation. Flexibility rather than closemindedness promotes friendship. Establish territorial rights through knowledge and familiarity rather than by fence line. Offering to hunt with your neighbors might just solve your problems.
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Author:McKenzie, Carissa Culling
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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