Crop Damage

Identifying Crop Damage by Vertebrates

alfalfa harvestJason Gilsdorf in a Nebraska cornfield

This page contains a series of questions that will guide you in determining the wildlife species that is damaging your crops. Vertebrates are animals with backbones or spinal columns.

Is the damage occurring to:



corn soybeans


Corn Damage Identification by Species

Beaver Damage to Corn

Key signs:

  • Stalks cut near the base at a 45° angle. Stalks carried away toward water.
  • Look for trail leading to water.

Bird Damage to Corn

Key signs:

  • Stalks will not be knocked over
  • Seedlings will be plucked prior to seed exhaustion
  • Birds tend to dig around the entire seedling (squirrels to 1 side)
  • Corn cobs will have a “firecracker” look.
  • Corn seeds on the cob will be punctured

Black Bear Damage to Corn

Key signs:

  • Typically, bears damage corn in the middle of the field. It’s not uncommon to only notice the damage at harvest time because their activity will not be visible from the edges.
  • Stalks will be bent at the base and/or husks removed from stalk.
  • Very wasteful eating as most of the corn will remain on eaten cobs.

Deer Damage to Corndeer damage corn cob

Key signs: deer tracks

  1. Tracks:
  2. Deer are browsers, so damage will be scattered throughout the field, but more concentrated near their travel areas and along the wood’s edge.
  3. Note how the cob has been bitten in half.
  4. Corn plants are susceptible to deer damage, not just the cobs. See Purdue’s publication (2020).

raccon corn damage

Raccoon Damage to Corn

Key signs:

  1. Stalks knocked over in different ways.
  2. Husks stripped off the cob (like we would) before eaten.
  3. Cobs will frequently have a muddied appearance as dirt from the raccoons paws will transfer to the cob.

Squirrel Damage to Corn

Key signs:

  • Damage tends to occur close to wooded areas.
  • Hearts of the corn will be eaten.
  • Look for scattered pieces of corn on the ground.
  • Seedlings will be plucked prior to exhaustion of the seed.


Soybean Damage Identification by Species

Deer Damage to Soybeans

Key signs:

  1. Cuts to stem will have a ragged appearance because deer lack upper incisors. In contrast, damage caused by woodchucks or rabbits will have a clean cut appearance, often at a 45 degree angle.