may depend on the individual’s perception. A groundhog digging under the porch or feeding on flowers may constitute damage from one point of view. Others may view that as a minor issue compared to a coyote that has developed a taste for calves or an otter that has discovered a smorgasbord in a commercial hatchery pond.
Private Land Services Division is responsible for the Wildlife Damage Management Program, which assists Missourians with substantial damage and financial losses due to wildlife.
The program is staffed by six wildlife damage biologists and a central office supervisor who are specialists in identifying and alleviating wildlife damage issues. The program depends on a variety of methods, including habitat management, animal husbandry, repellents, traps and scare tactics, as well as lethal control tactics.
Wildlife damage problems are not new to Missouri. In 1923, Missouri hired six government trappers to remove problem animals.
Most of the damage complaints received during this time period centered on the growing coyote population in Missouri. The idea was to refer trappers to individuals suffering predation problems to trap and eliminate the offending animals. This approach proved to be too time consuming, and the trappers could not respond to complaints in a timely manner.
An extension-type predator control program began in 1945, employing two predator control agents. These agents traveled throughout the state training landowners on how to remove offending predators.
This approach proved much more effective because landowners could trap predators on their own as soon as they caused damage. The special training also allowed landowners to prevent future losses.
TODAY’S WILDLIFE DAMAGE BIOLOGIST
Today the Missouri Department of Conservation’s Wildlife Damage Management program continues to use the extension service approach.
The state is divided into three urban districts (Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield) and three rural districts (north, south and central) to best serve citizens.
The role and duties of the wildlife damage biologist have changed over the years. Once known simply as “state trappers,” they now lead public conservation programs, conduct training for Department employees, assist with special projects and act as media contacts, in addition to training landowners and trapping nuisance wildlife.
Coyotes still account for some of the damage complaints that biologists receive. However, since wildlife populations in general have increased over the years, several other species have been added to the list. Otters, beavers, geese, deer and even bears now challenge the skills of wildlife damage biologists.
OTTERS AND BEAVERS
“Otters adapted to Missouri’s landscape much