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Fencing with wildlife in mind

By Roberta Tolan
SUN Columnist

It’s that time of year, when fawns are being weaned and large populations of deer and elk are soon to begin their fall migration.

With this movement, we also see greater mortality of animals killed on fences.

A study conducted by Utah State University along more than 600 miles of fencing in northeastern Utah and northwestern Colorado reported the following key findings:

• On average, one ungulate per year was found tangled for every 2.5 miles of fence.

• Most animals died by getting caught in the top two wires while trying to jump a fence.

• Juveniles are eight times more likely to die in fences than adults.

• Woven-wire fence topped with a single strand of barbed-wire was the most lethal fence type.

• 70 percent of all mortalities were on fences higher than 40 inches.

• 90 percent of carcasses found near fences were fawns — separated from their mothers and unable to cross.

Colorado is a fence-out state, so anyone wanting to build a fence to keep livestock in or out should know the legal fence requirements.

Fences are important and are needed for a variety of reasons, but they can also be barriers and traps for wildlife and can be costly to landowners when they are damaged.  You can possibly save money in the long run by fencing in only what you need to protect and leaving access to the habitat that animals need. Where fencing is necessary, tailor your design and placement to minimize the impact on wildlife and lessen your costs and time to fix it.

Fences that cause the most problems for wildlife are:

• Too high to jump.

• Too low to crawl under.

• Have loose wires or have wires spaced too closely together.

• Difficult for fleeing animals or birds to see.

• Create a complete barrier.

While the best fence for wildlife is no fence at all, fences are often necessary. In some cases, though, people tend to put up fencing to define their property lines and other alternatives exist. So the first question is, do you really need a fence? If you do, consider a fence design and placement that minimize the impact on wildlife. Some considerations are:

The purpose of the fence:  This will often dictate which type of fence to use. Are you trying to keep livestock in or keep wildlife out? Is the fence needed year-round? Would temporary fences serve your purpose?

Wildlife habitat: Wherever possible, design your fence to provide wildlife free travel to important habitats and corridors as well as access to water. Wetlands and riparian habitats are especially important for all wildlife.

Species of wildlife present: Note the wildlife in the area and which species may need to cross the fence. Watch for daily and seasonal wildlife movement patterns and look for trails. Design property boundary fences so wildlife can easily cross, or provide gaps or lay-down sections for wildlife passage whenever livestock is not present.

Topography: Will your fence be a topography trap for wildlife? Swales, gullies, ridges and stream corridors can funnel wildlife through an area. Keep these open to allow wildlife passage and avoid topography traps.  Remember that a fence of any height is more difficult to cross when placed across a steep slope.

Wildlife-friendly fencing

The “friendliest” fences for wildlife are very visible and allow wild animals to easily jump over or slip under the wires or rails. The Colorado Division of Wildlife recommends:

• Fencing wire placed on the side of the fence posts where the domestic animals are located.

• Smooth wire or rounded rail for the top, smooth wire on the bottom.

• Height of top rail or wire should be 42 inches or less.

• At least 12 inches between the top two wires.

•  At least 16 inches between the bottom wire or rail and the ground.

• Posts at minimum 16-inch intervals.

• Gates, drop-downs, removable fence sections or other passages where animals concentrate and cross.

•  Using a rail, high-visibility wire, flagging or other visual markers for the top.

Remedies for fences

Fence maintenance, modifications and removal can all help wildlife.

Keep wires tight. Sagging wires and neglected fences create a hazard for both domestic animals and wildlife.

Replace barbed-wire with smooth wire wherever possible.

Adjust the height of top wire; no more than 42 inches above the ground.

Increase the distance between the top two wires to 12 inches to reduce entanglements.

Reduce the number of wires to three, or at most four.

Add a top rail, high visibility top wire, PVC cover on the top wire or flagging to increase visibility.

Raise the bottom wire to at least 16 inches above the ground.

Add wildlife crossings where trails cross fences by using dropped wires, dropped rail, lay-down fence or underpasses as described earlier.

Remove old fences that are in disrepair or no longer are needed. Remove any unnecessary interior fences.

Bale and carry away piles of wire.

This information was taken from the Colorado Division of Wildlife booklet “Fencing With Wildlife in Mind.”  For more information on this topic, or to download the entire booklet, visit the website at www.wildlife.state.co.u.

CPR/First Aid classes 

CPR and First Aid Certification classes are now being offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6-10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.  We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates, with five or more registrations.  Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/First Aid and $55 for CPR, First Aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the participants.

Calendar

Sept. 12 — Mountain View Homemakers 50th anniversary lunch, noon.

Sept. 14 — 4-H Achievement Night, 4:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 — Holiday Acres Property Owners Association meeting, 6 p.m.

Sept. 16 — Backcountry Horsemen meeting, 5:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 — Mountain High Garden Club,10 a.m.

Sept. 18 — Western Heritage Committee meeting, 6 p.m.

Sept. 19 — Cross Country Pasta Night, 6 p.m.

Colorado State University Extension provides science based information on youth development (4-H), agriculture and natural resources, horticulture, family and consumer sciences and community development. Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.

This story was posted on September 12, 2013.