Managing wildlife does not mean eradication of all wildlife from your farm or that you should clear all of your land, fill in streams, ponds, or wetlands. On the contrary, destroying wildlife habitat and vegetation around field edges frequently exacerbates food safety risks. Farms covered by FSMA are only required to monitor for animal presence in their fields and take measures to prevent the harvest of contaminated produce; FSMA does not override any county, state, and federal laws, including the Endangered Species Act, that protect certain animals and habitat (§112.84). Contact the USDA Wildlife Services for help managing wildlife safely and legally.
Massachusetts Wildlife Services
463 West St.
Amherst, MA 01002
Co-management is the best way to mitigate food safety risks posed by wildlife while limiting the environmental impacts of your actions. It is important, for example, to fully understand the potential wildlife carriers of food-borne pathogens in your area and the relative risks that each of those animals pose to your farm, so that you can take targeted action to control the animals that pose the biggest food safety threats. Lots of research has been done on what animal species carry which human pathogens and what wildlife management techniques are effective for different species. Two excellent resources, from the Wild Farm Alliance, that outline the importance of co-management and how to effectively deter wildlife from your fields are below.
Monitor your fields throughout the growing season but especially immediately before harvest for evidence of animal intrusion—animal poop, feeding damage, animal tracks, etc. The frequency with which you monitor should be based on the crop in that field, your growing practices, the field conditions, and your past experiences with wildlife in that field. For example, it is less important to monitor a pepper field before the plants begin to fruit, and more important once the fruit has set. Farms covered by FSMA must monitor their fields throughout the season at self-determined frequencies and immediately before harvesting from any field (§112.83(b)(1)). Such farms should keep records of field inspections and any actions taken. See the “Pre-Harvest Assessment” section below for more information, including what to do if you find evidence of animal intrusion in your field.
It's also important to monitor agricultural water sources on your farm for animal intrusion. Surface water sources are the most likely to become contaminated, and you should monitor the water for spikes in E. coli numbers. Check well heads regularly to ensure that they’re installed correctly. See our Agricultural Water page for more general information and FSMA regulations regarding water safety, including water testing and water system inspection recordkeeping templates.
If there is unusually high wildlife presence in a field, you may want to take action to deter them. See the Vertebrate Pest Management section of the New England Vegetable Management Guide for recommendations for different animals.