Can a Farmer Kill Wildlife to Prevent it From Destroying His Crops?

February 4, 2009

I think by now, any resident of Lancatser County is familiar with the events in Sadsbury Township where a farmer alleged that he had been attacked by a mountain lion. This situation, although a little different, raises an interesting question, can a farmer kill wildlife on his property to prevent it from destroying his crops?

The answer is: not as a first resort. The Pennsylvania Game and Wildlife Code provides that “before any game or wildlife…may be killed, every reasonable effort shall be made to live trap and transfer such game or wildlife. The trapping and transfer shall be done in cooperation with a representative of the comission." Therefore, according to this statute, failing to first make reasonable non-lethal efforts in cooperation with the Commission before the final steps of destroying the wildlife is a violation of the law. The State is enforcing this law as well, as evidenced by a December 31, 2008 decision in Clinton county titled Commonwealth vs. Gavlock, which resulted in a Clinton County man being fined $500.00 for killing an elk to prevent it from destroying his fruit trees. The farmer conceded that there were non-lethal ways to discourage the wildlife, but he felt he only had one chance to destroy it before it came back to destroy the rest of his trees.

The lesson seems to be, contact the commission and elicit its help before taking matters into your own hands.