Every year, thousands of big game animals and birds die of injuries caused by fences. It is possible to build effective fences that meet the needs of landowners and that minimize harm to wildlife, however.
Fencing with Wildlife in Mind, a new Department of Wildlife publication, explains how to build a variety of wildlife-friendly fences. It also includes instructions on how to construct enclosures around areas to exclude wildlife. When properly built, fences can allow wildlife to move through an area, both in their normal daily movements and in seasonal migration patterns. The information offered by the publication is based on long-term research and observations by wildlife officers and biologists. In addition, private landowners provided suggestions and designs that they employ on their properties. “Fences are major investments for landowners,” said Pat Tucker, coordinator of the Habitat Partnership Program for the DOW. “This publication isn’t the final word on fencing but it does show real life examples of fence designs that work for both landowners and wildlife.” As summer approaches and fence-fixing time begins, landowners are asked to consider carefully what they need for fencing. Such considerations include:
– What is the real purpose of the fence?
– Is a fence really needed? Property lines can be defined using well-spaced posts, signs or a specific type of tree or shrub instead of a fence.
– Do livestock need to be kept in a pasture or out of an area?
– Is the fence needed year around? Could it be built to be dropped during migratory times?
– Is the fence going to block a path critical to wildlife habitat? The best fences for wildlife are highly visible to large animals and birds and allow wildlife to jump over or crawl under them. Furthermore, they do not block access to important habitats and travel corridors.
Primary recommendations for wildlife-friendly fencing:
– Top wire or rail should be smooth and 42 inches or less from the ground
– At least 12 inches of space should be left between the two top wires
– The bottom post or wire should be smooth and at least 16 inches off the ground
– Fence design should be varied, with some lower sections included to allow for easy crossings at some areas
– A high-visibility wire or flagging should be used to provide visual markers for animals.
“Many landowners provided us with their innovative designs for use in the publication,” said Ken Morgan, private lands coordinator for the DOW. “Their suggestions help to show other landowners that these designs work in the real world. The effort of landowners to help Colorado's wildlife is very much appreciated.” Fencing with Wildlife in Mind, addressing these and numerous other issues, can be found at the DOW website, wildlife.state.co.us/landwater/privatelandprogram/hpp and can be downloaded for use. A limited number of printed copies are also available at DOW offices. For more information about Division of Wildlife go to: wildlife.state.co.us.