Perceived damage and areas of needed research for wildlife pests of California agriculture

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Many wildlife species cause extensive damage to a variety of agricultural commodities in California, with estimates of damage in the hundreds of millions annually. Given the limited availability of resources to solve all human–wildlife conflicts, we should focus management efforts on issues that provide the greatest benefit to agricultural commodities in California. This survey provides quantitative data on research needs to better guide future efforts in developing more effective, practical and appropriate methods for managing these species. We found that ground squirrels, pocket gophers, birds, wild pigs, coyotes and voles were the most common agricultural wildlife pest species in California. The damage caused by these species could be quite high, but varied by agricultural commodity. For most species, common forms of damage included loss of crop production and direct death of the plant, although livestock depredation was the greatest concern for coyotes. Control methods used most frequently and those deemed most effective varied by pest species, although greater advancements in control methods were listed as a top research priority for all species. Collectively, the use of toxicants, biocontrol and trapping were the most preferred methods for control, but this varied by species. In general, integrated pest management practices were used to control wildlife pests, with a special preference for those approaches that were efficacious and quick and inexpensive to apply. This information and survey design should be useful in establishing research and management priorities for wildlife pest species in California and other similar regions.

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