Wildlife damage claims expected to be high in Sask.

An unusually high number of unharvested acres this winter are blamed for the increased level of damage done to crops

Saskatchewan crop insurance is expecting wildlife compensation claims to be higher-than-average this year due to an unusually high number of unharvested acres.

Darby Warner, executive director of insurance with Saskatchewan Crop Insurance Corp., said more than 1.2 million acres of insured crop didn’t get combined last fall.

Standing or swathed crops that spend the winter in the field are prone to higher levels of wildlife damage by waterfowl and big game animals.

Uninsured crops are also eligible for compensation.

“We’re expecting (total payouts) to be more than average for sure, but I can’t really give you a number,” he said.

“We’re going to see a surge … this year because we have 1.2 million acres of insured crop left out in the field plus this is a compensation program that applies to uninsured acres as well.”

SCIC divides wildlife compensation claims into two categories — damage caused by migratory waterfowl and damage caused by big game animals including deer, elk, moose and wild pigs.

Over the past nine years, nearly 1,400 big game claims have been received each year at a total average cost of $5.8 million annually.

Over the same period, about 1,200 waterfowl claims have been received each year at an average annual cost of $8.5 million.

Predation claims, where producers lose livestock to wildlife, have averaged 2,150 claims per year at an average annual cost of $1.5 million.

The last time that Saskatchewan crop growers had a large number of unharvested acres was in the fall of 2016.

Because SCIC’s fiscal year ends on March 31, wildlife damage claims for those unharvested acres did not show up on the SCIC’s books until the 2017 fiscal year.

That year, the total value of wildlife damage claims exceeded a record $30 million, including $18.8 million worth of damage caused by waterfowl and more than $11.7 million worth of damage caused by big game.

The amount of wildlife damage that occurs also depends on the type of crop left in the field, Warner said.

Unharvested canola acres, for example, might see less damage than unharvested lentil or wheat acres, based on the overall palatability of the crop, protein levels and other factors.

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