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Depredation

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission acknowledges that wildlife species periodically cause damage to agricultural crops, stored crops, fences, tree farms, and other property and may present a threat to human health and safety. This damage largely occurs due to the use of wildlife habitat by humans for economic purposes such as agricultural production. Wildlife damage cannot always be prevented but certain management practices, instituted by the landowner, may reduce or eliminate some damage problems. The Commission has a legal mandate to respond to complaints and take actions necessary to minimize damage when possible.

In all cases, it must be emphasized that the wildlife resource is held in trust for the citizens of Nebraska for all of its citizens to utilize for recreation and education. This wildlife resource does not belong to the Game and Parks Commission, but to all Nebraskans.

Tools

The Commission utilizes a variety of tools in response to depredation including technical advice, abatement materials and supplies (scare devices, exclusion materials), and/or damage control permits.

Damage Control Permits

Damage control permits (DCP) are utilized in instances when normal hunting does not provide enough relief from damage, typically due to timing or access issues. These permits must be requested from a landowner and damage must be inspected. DCPs are issued to a single landowner and additional shooters may be identified and listed on the permit in coordination and review with the Commission. Total animals allowed under a permit are typically are incremental in number with additional permits added as they are filled. Meat from killed animals must be offered for human consumption and when males are allowed on permits, the antlers must be turned in to the Commission and cannot be retained by the permit holder. Contact the Commission via the form at he bottom of this page or call or visit your district office for more information about DCPs.

Antlerless Hunter Database

The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Antlerless Hunter Database connects hunters who wish to harvest antlerless deer with landowners who are experiencing damage issues from deer on their property. Hunters who wish to be considered for this program may sign up on the program page, and landowners may view a list of hunters interested in harvesting antlerless deer.
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Contact a biologist

Game and Parks biologists can help landowners identify options for addressing wildlife-related damage. To speak to a biologist, contact your district office during regular business hours or complete the form below.

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Special Depredation Season

A special elk depredation season was ordered for July in a portion of southwest Nebraska because of excessive crop damage caused by elk. Nebraska Game and Parks Commission Director Tim McCoy signed a Special Depredation Order for a season July 1-31 in specific parts of Lincoln, Perkins, Keith, Deuel and Garden counties. Read the order here. The season ended July 31, 2022.

Who will be eligible

Permits will be available to residents, nonresidents and landowners owning at least 80 acres within the hunting area. Landowners must hunt their own land.

Permit details

The permit bag limit is one elk of either sex. Hunters may purchase more than one permit.

Addition information about the special season

Learn more about the special season by reading the special elk depredation season rules and regulations. Or read our press release.

2022 Special Elk Depredation Season FAQs

Why did the Commission order the 2022 Southwest Elk season?

The Commission manages wildlife populations in a way that provides recreational opportunities for our hunters while keeping populations at a manageable level for our landowners. In our mostly privately owned state, we must balance landowner tolerance and hunter opportunity. This balance is critical to ensuring future seasons. We use depredation seasons as a last resort when other methods have not been effective enough. It allows a targeted harvest in an area without having to further reduce elk across an entire unit.

Nebraska hunters specifically ask to be a part of the solution when landowners experience depredation problems. Special Depredation Season legislation recently passed allowing hunters to do that in specific locations where depredation is occurring.

Why doesn’t this season include guaranteed access?

The Commission cannot legally require access, but a special depredation season will not be ordered unless land access is reasonable: meaning hunters are allowed on the property, though not everyone is permitted.  The landowners that requested this season are allowing free access to their properties, but are not able to host every hunter who calls them. Other landowners in the designated area may choose to require a fee.

Permission for access should be obtained prior to purchasing a permit. Though we cannot post a list of landowner names, we are working closely with the landowners to provide them hunters and assistance managing the hunters as needed.

Remember: It is important to build relationships with landowners with mutual trust and respect in order to gain access to private lands.

What is the history behind needing a season in this specific area?

The geographic area designated in this season is mostly cropland with many center pivot irrigation systems and a few interspersed pastures. When elk are present near center pivot systems, they can cause extensive damage by trampling, wallowing and eating crops. The damage can occur at any time during the growing season, but becomes much worse when the crops start to dry out before harvest.

In 2018, several landowners in the area started to see small herds of elk show up during summer and stay until crops were harvested, causing excessive damage. The landowners agreed to have hunters come during the regular seasons free of charge; hunters with permits were contacted by the Commission and asked to come and hunt these areas.  Some hunters harvested elk, but not enough prior to damage occurring. Others chose not to hunt these properties, preferring not to use their once-in-a-lifetime bull permit or cow permit to hunt a less populated area with center pivots.

In the past three years, hunters have taken 17 elk, six bulls and 11 cows in the area designated. Since 2020, we have issued eight damage-control permits to the landowners and we have sent hunters their way; two elk were killed on these permits.

A special depredation season opens the opportunity to get more hunters into a specific area and reduce the population while enjoying the harvest.

Why such an early season?

The elk move out of the area after the crops are harvested, making late-season cow hunting ineffective. The Commission also is trying to prevent the elk from taking up residency in the fields during the growing season, so the damage never occurs.

The height of crops in late July to early August is another reason this season will begin early as corn in mid to late summer is taller than most cow elk. The early season allows pressure on these fields prior to the elk finding the escape cover of a fully grown field.

Isn’t it too hot to hunt elk in July?

Yes, it is hot, but is very similar to our August season and proper management of harvested meat is possible during this time of year. A hunter must be prepared to quickly cool down the meat by boning out the elk and getting the meat into a cooler or field dressing it and putting pre-frozen blocks of ice in the cavity immediately. The animal can be telechecked.

What about the early season impact on calves?

A few elk calves could be affected by the special season, but the number is likely to remain low given the size of the herds in the area at this time. Calves also will be eligible to be harvested by hunters during the season. As during regular season, it is unlawful for a hunter to waste meat that they harvest.

Aren’t the antlers of the bulls are still in velvet?

This hunt is not meant to be a trophy hunt; it is a management hunt with the purpose of reducing the elk population in a very specific area as quickly as possible. The meat of the animal, if properly handled, will still be an appetizing, nutritious protein source.

What about the hunters that have been applying for a permit in this unit?

For the past two years, the Commission has increased permits in this unit to allow for hunters to harvest elk during the regular season to help manage the populations, but most hunters choose to hunt in the areas where there are more elk.  In this unit, the core elk area in is not a part of this special depredation season. The idea of this season was to concentrate hunters in this area without affecting the core area or a hunters’ ability to use their regular season permits. Hunters who would like to hunt both this season and a regular season are allowed to do so without affecting their ability to qualify for a regular season permit.

Since the permits are not limited and are buy permits, why are the general permits not available on-line or at other District offices?

Due to the complexity of the permit, which can vary between special depredation seasons, our current permit system is not able to accommodate such permits. An alternate system was created to issue these special elk depredation permits, the first season of this type. The North Platte District office will issue these permits because of their location and knowledge about the area included in the season.

Why open the season to residents and non-residents if so few animals were on the property and access would be so limited?

Since this is a management hunt, the agency is trying to allow for as many potential hunters to assist as possible.

Why did you allow for unlimited permits?

Unlimited permits allows hunters time to gain access prior to purchasing their permit, instead of purchasing it in a rush prior to gaining permission. It also allows landowners who have trusted hunters to ensure that they are able to obtain a permit.

What if I bought a permit without gaining access first? Will there be a refund?

No, refunds will not be issued due to not gaining access, this is the same for any of our regular season permits.

What will the money from permits go toward?

The commission shall use the income from the sale of special depredation season permits for abatement of damage caused by deer, antelope, and elk.