Wildlife Friendly Fences: Suggestions For Ranch Owners

On ranches, the typical job of a fence is to keep in the livestock and establish a perimeter. Sometimes, however, fences can have an unintended consequence that affect local wildlife. Every year, animals like deer and bighorn sheep die trying to clear fences with barbed wire. Large birds perish when they become caught in the wires and barbs of the fences too difficult to see while in flight. Wildlife friendly fences do exist and are recommended for use on ranches where predation is not a major concern. In addition, wildlife friendly practices can make existing fences safer for wild animals. The following tips are meant for ranchers seeking to make commercial fencing safe for their ranch. 

Make the Fence Wire Visible

Large birds can easily become caught in the wires of a barbed wire fence because they simply can't see the wire is there. Birds that fly into the wire either become stuck in the barbs or break their necks when they encounter the wire in flight. There are many possible solutions to this problem:

  • Tie ribbons on the wires.
  • Attach flags to the fence.
  • Purchase commercial fences with a visible top rail made of wood, not wire.
  • String the top wire of the fence through PVC pipe to make it more visible on the landscape.

Put Distance Between Top Two Wires

Animals frequently become caught hopping fences because their hooves catch on the top two wires in the fence and the wires become twisted around the animal's leg. Once caught this way, many animals can't escape. This can all be avoided by installing fences with a large enough space (at least a foot) between the top two wires. This will ensure that even if the animal's hoof snags on the top wire, the leg won't become completely caught.

Use Natural Barriers Where Ever Possible

Using natural barriers (such as cliffs and box canyons) to serve in place of a fence is not only a wildlife-safe solution, it's also less expensive. Natural barriers can easily keep livestock in while also posing no threat to the natural wildlife in the area.

Create Openings In the Fence for Seasons When Not in Use

In general, wildlife will not attempt to jump a fence when there's an opening nearby. Leave gates open (and install gates where necessary) to give animals a safe way in and out of seasonal pastures while they're not in use. 

Reduce Presence of Fences Whenever Possible

Large ranches that have been in use for many years may have fences that were used at one time and are no longer necessary. Fences that are not in use by the property owner achieve nothing but can hurt wildlife and should come down.

For more information about how you can make your commercial fence safer for local wildlife, contact a fencing contractor today.