Wildlife Damage Management Overview

The DNR is responsible for managing Iowa’s wildlife, and thus has a duty to provide Iowa landowners with assistance when dealing with property damage from wildlife. Landowners faced with significant damage should explore the following options:

1. Seek Professional Consultation

A local wildlife biologist with the DNR can answer many of your questions and provide technical advice on how to deal with crop damage. Once you have contacted the wildlife biologist for your area, they will visit your property with you to evaluate the extent of the wildlife damage and work with you to find solutions to reduce or stop the damage such as:

  • Determine what animals are causing the damage.
  • How to exclude or deter the animals causing damage.
  • Alternative practices that would minimize the level of damage.
  • Working with neighbors to keep wildlife populations at acceptable levels.
  • Recommendations to increase hunting pressure and take more antlerless deer within existing seasons.
  • Providing extra deer depredation licenses for hunters who hunt your property.
  • Providing you (the landowner or tenant) or your designee with permits to shoot deer outside of existing seasons (all deer taken must be recovered and processed for consumption).

2. Increase Hunting Pressure

Iowa law allows the DNR to issue additional hunting licenses and permits to individuals that endure, or are likely to endure, excessive damage from deer. Landowners may want to work with neighbors to coordinate “block hunts” to more effectively solve the problem. A block hunt provides a remedy for landowners experiencing substantial damage from wildlife that spend a majority of their time on a neighboring lot.

Iowa DNR maintains a list of antlerless deer hunters who have expressed interest in helping landowners meet their harvest goals. Contact information for these hunters is available to landowners that request it, with landowners being the ones that initiate contact and have the right to grant or refuse permission to any hunter.

Landowner liability:  Realizing that the risk of potential liability might prevent landowners from opening their property to recreational users, the Iowa Legislature passed Iowa Code ch. 461C in 1967. Often called the “Iowa Recreational Use Statute”, this law encourages private owners and occupiers of land to make land and water areas available for recreational uses, such as hunting, by limiting liability toward persons entering their property for these uses. Learn more about this statute in this Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation fact sheet.

3. Depredation Management Plans

To qualify for extra deer depredation licenses or shooting permits the landowner or tenant must enter into an agreement with the DNR that outlines the goals and timeframe in which deer numbers will be reduced and how normal hunting practices will be used to keep deer numbers at desired levels.
 If a landowner or tenant can show substantial damage (at least $1,000) they can enter into a depredation management agreement with the DNR. These plans are typically written for a 3-year term but damages and local populations should be reviewed annually. The ultimate goal is to reduce the deer population to a point at which damage is no longer substantial and the population can be controlled with normal hunting pressure.
Substantial Damage: Must be harm to agricultural crops or high-value horticultural crops within a single growing season. Can be proven by past, present, or even anticipated losses.

DNR staff write depredation plans with input from the producer to outline the following:

Depredation Licenses
 - Issued to individual resident hunters (including landowner or tenant) with permission to hunt on the damaged lands and/or the immediately adjacent lands
 - Sold at reduced price ($7)
 - Depredation licenses are purchased and valid for specific seasons
 - Only valid for antlerless deer (does)
 - All meat must be utilized per hunting regulations—Hunter may keep the deer once they are tagged and reported, donate it to HUSH, or gift it to someone else.
Shooting Permits
 - Issued to landowners or their designees in situations where substantial damage is occurring before a hunting season opens.
 - Permits are issued at a reduced fee of $7
 - Only valid for taking deer outside of the regular hunting seasons
 - All deer killed must be recovered and processed for human consumption (can be kept to eat or donated to HUSH)
 - Any antlers must be turned over to conservation officer within 48 hours
 * Harvest limits for both will be set by the department biologist and producers as outlined in the written plan.
 ** Obtaining either will have no effect on one’s eligibility for other hunting licenses and/or permits.
Find additional information about deer management on the Iowa DNR wildlife damage management website and in the fact sheets listed below. 

Wildlife Depredation Program Fact Sheet (link will be added when available)

Wildlife Damage Management Options for Producers Fact Sheet (link will be added when available)

Disclaimer: This document is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to provide legal advice for your specific situation or to infer an attorney-client relationship. Please contact your legal representative with any questions regarding your rights and available options. This document was last updated June 27, 2024 and may not reflect the most recent changes in the law. For additional information, please contact your county Farm Bureau office.