Please let me introduce myself.  My name is Mike Mengak and I am a Professor & Wildlife Outreach Specialist in the Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources at the University of Georgia.  Our Viticulture Extension Specialist – Dr. Cain Hickey – has invited me to join the “Viticulture Team”.  I appreciate the invitation from Dr. Hickey and look forward to working with him and you – the producers.  Interestingly the initials for the Viticulture Team are VT.  Both Cain and I are alumni from VT – Virginia Tech.  Cain earned a Bachelor’s degree from Penn State; I grew up in Pennsylvania.  Small world!

My background is in Wildlife Management.  My work at the University of Georgia focuses on nuisance wildlife.  I teach a course titled “Wildlife Damage Management” and recently served as Chair of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Damage Management Working Group.  My graduate students and I have worked on a variety of wildlife species responsible for human-wildlife conflict such as armadillo, deer, and wild pigs.   I teach outreach classes on the subject of Wildlife Damage Management to Cooperative Extension County Agents, Master Gardeners, and Master Naturalists.  Cain has invited me to speak about nuisance wildlife management at the New Grape Grower’s Conference in August at Young Harris.  I hope to meet many of you at the conference.

My contact information is – Email:; Office Phone: 706-583-8096; Webpage:  Please don’t hesitate to contact me with wildlife management questions, especially nuisance wildlife and wildlife damage.

For now, let’s review a few basics.  First HERL.  Second, nuisance wildlife management is a PROCESS, not an event.  What is HERL?  HERL is a simple acronym that we use as a model for addressing nuisance wildlife management issues.  The letters stand for actions we can take.  H is for habitat modification or harassment.  E is for exclusion. R is for repellent or relocation. And, finally, L is for lethal control.  I cannot discuss these actions in detail in this post but I will cover this at the conference in Young Harris.  For now, let’s focus on the process part.

Nuisance wildlife management is not an event.  There are no silver bullets, magic powders, or simple solutions.  Good nuisance wildlife management takes time and money.  It is a process.  There are many products on the market and many claims as to their utility.  My advice is to trust products and claims backed by sound research and science.  For instance, deer whistles placed on car bumpers are not effective because research suggests that deer cannot hear sound at the frequency of the whistle.  However, the claim is made that deer whistles could reduce deer vehicle collisions.

How does this apply to a vineyard?  Well, deer whistles do not apply but the message is the same.  Rely on products backed by sound research and science.  You and your employees are probably walking around your vineyard a lot this time of the year.  There is a lot of human scent in the vineyard.  So, logically, do you think that little bags of human hair hung in your vines will deter deer?  Not likely.

Exclusion is probably the best tool we have for preventing most wildlife damage to vineyards (and to gardens and landscapes as well).  We know that fencing and nets can be expensive.  However, one has to weigh the life span of the fence/net with the cost savings over the expected life span.  Fences can last 20 – 30 years.  Nets can be reused for six or more seasons.  The initial cost may be high but the average annual cost may be very reasonable.  Now is not the time to build a fence – that should have been done last winter in anticipation of the need.  Netting can protect your crop from birds.  There are few effective bird repellents that can be easily applied to vineyards.  Shooting is very illegal – a federal offense.  Harassment can help but is time consuming if done by people and is not effective long-term if done by devices such as plastic owls, plastic snakes, or scarecrows.  Solutions need to be tailored to the situation.  Two acres are easier to protect than 22 acres.  What works on two or three acres may not be effective across a larger area.  Also, the context of the vineyard is important.  What is the habitat like on the surrounding properties?  Are your neighbors avid deer hunters who are working to increase deer density on their property?  If so, you are going to face different challenges in deer management than a grower whose neighbors are also working to reduce deer density.

I hope that you can see that there are many things to consider when designing a nuisance wildlife management plan.  This is a process than can – and should – take many years and be a routine part of your annual work plan.  Nuisance wildlife management is not a one-time event.