Farmers Battle Bears Before Corn Harvest

By KBJR News 1

August 27, 2012 Updated Aug 27, 2012 at 6:11 PM CDT

Bayfield County, WI (Northlands Newscenter)
-- In the fields of Northwest Wisconsin, farmers are seeing an increase in crop damage.

But it isn't weather that's causing the problem its bears. They are flattening, and eating corn stalks causing irreparable damage to the harvest, and the farmer's bottom line.

Jeff Johnson raises cattle and grows corn in the fields of Northwest Wisconsin. In the weeks called the milking stage, close to harvest time, his crop is invaded by an unwelcome visitor.

"The bear will get in the corn when it's in the milk stage and they roll in it, wreck it, damage it, and it's been an absolute problem," said Johnson.

In the past ten years, the number of bears captured because of agricultural complaints has increased with the increase of corn growth; 336 were trapped in 2011, compared to around 200 in 2000.

"The bear numbers are increasing and increasing. We just can't keep hauling them around we got to start getting rid of them."

Johnson thinks the solution is simple, issue more hunting permits to decrease the bear population in Bayfield and Ashland counties.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural resources monitors the situation and says the solution is more complicated.

"We have lots of people that like to see bears and have bears around, people that hunt them or just want to view them and we try to balance the bear population for what the majority of the people in the state want," said Fred Strand with the Wisconsin DNR.

The DNR does offer monetary compensation for lost corn, and other solutions to curbing the bear problem.

"We try to solve it through trapping that's done by wildlife services. If the trapping isn't able to abate the problem, we can offer the farmer shooting permits. The farmer then himself or though others that he delegates can shoot bear on his property," said Strand.

But some farmers aren't happy with the status quo.

"We don't need kill permits; we don't have time for it. We're not guiding people, we are farmers," said Johnson.

In 2010, the appraised value of crop damage from Bear was around 200,000 dollars. Overall bear complaints in Wisconsin were down 23 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

Zach Vavricka

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