May is the time in Ohio when seeds are going into the ground, planted by both farmers and gardeners. And fencing is being constructed this month, as well, to protect the emerging young seedlings so they can grow and become mature plants. But building the wrong type of fencing can be a deathtrap for wildlife, particularly deer. Here’s an alternative:
Melanie Tallmadge and Eric Wells, Firelands Electric Cooperative
Q. We are writing with the hope that you would be interested in raising awareness of the practice of putting one strand of barbed wire above woven-wire fencing. Attached you will find a picture of an incident that has happened at least three times in the last five years on neighboring property.
We understand that farmers use barbed wire to protect their livestock or keep livestock from reaching over the top of woven wire and breaking it down. But there has to be some sort of attachment or a different way of fencing to keep wildlife from dying a horrible death. What are your thoughts?
A. Thanks for bringing this issue to my attention, Melanie, and I’m glad to help make landowners aware of the problem. I contacted the Ohio Division of Wildlife for their suggestions on deer-friendly fencing. Below is what one of their biologists, Geoff Westerfield, recommends. In addition, attached are two photos he sent for illustrating his suggested fencing options. One photo depicts garden fencing and the other field fencing.
“Most deer fencing is meant to exclude deer, so the concept I always emphasize is to make it as visible as possible,” says Westerfield. “I think in many, probably even most situations where fencing isn’t working properly, it is because the fencing is made to be as unnoticeable as possible, such as the fine-meshed, black landscaping netting that homeowners use.
“Deer can easily jump a four-foot-high solid fence, but once you start adding holes to the fence, as with woven wire, the ‘solid effect’ is decreased. Then add the single-strand of barbed wire to the top, and the situation is made even more difficult for deer. Deer can typically judge the height of a solid fence, but at times are not able to accurately judge the height of the single strand above it. Thus, they jump just high enough to clear the solid fence, and end up caught between the barbed wire and woven wire.
“So, a solution, if someone must use the single strand of barbed wire, is to make the single strand more visible by tying pieces of surveyor’s tape or other flagging at intervals along the strand. Another option would be to move the single strand of barbed wire higher above the woven-wire fence; but still remember to attach the flagging.”