A farm policy analyst provides tips on how to help prevent and safely handle unauthorized visitors on your property
By Kate Ayers
While some Ontario producers open their lands to friends, family members and other trusted individuals for hunting, some farmers prefer to keep their acreages private.
Individuals who do not want hunters on their properties can post “No trespassing” signs. Although landowners do not need to post signs to indicate their land is off limits to the public, these tools can help clarify the farmers’ wishes, the Ontario Federation of Agriculture’s (OFA’s) “Trespass problems? Tips on how to deal with trespassing” article said.
Farmers can request “No trespassing” signs through their local member service representatives.
“If signs at every normal point of entry to the farm haven’t proven to be an effective deterrent, then try posting them at regular intervals along all property lines,” Peter Jeffery, OFA’s senior farm policy analyst, said to Better Farming.
The installation of locks on gates might help to reinforce the no trespassing message, Jeffery added. Farmers can also tell neighbours they “do not permit hunting or any form of recreational access on their properties,” he said. Neighbours can act as extra sets of eyes and inform landowners of trespassers.
Producers can also walk their property to check for signs of trespassing, particularly if the land has valleys, woodlots or other areas that are shielded from view, Jeffery said.
Several tell-tale indicators could suggest unauthorized entry.
“Signs of trespassing might include litter (food wrappers, empty cans and bottles) as well as open gates,” Jeffery said.
“One might also find a tree stand or signs an animal was hunted, killed and field dressed on the farm. ATV tracks are another clue.”
In the event of an in-person encounter, a farmer must use his or her best judgement depending on the situation.
“If someone is walking through a field, simply advising the person he or she is trespassing and must leave the property immediately should suffice. If the individual refuses to leave, then the farmer should call the police,” Jeffery said.
“If the trespasser is an armed hunter, it’s best to skip the step of telling the trespasser to leave. Instead, either call the police or a conservation officer. These officers have the authority to arrest, as well as the training to do so.”
Anyone who enters a private property without the occupier’s permission, or anyone who does not have legal authority to be there, is trespassing, OFA’s article said.
If the unauthorized visitor does not leave when asked, he or she can be found guilty under the Trespass to Property Act.
Other acts that farmers should know of include the Occupier’s Liability Act, the Off-Road Vehicles Act and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act.
Farmers can learn more information about these acts in this OFA article. BF