Study considers fences, wildlife
Good fences make good neighbors, Robert Frost once wrote, and good fences also make good wildlife neighbors.
Anyone familiar with Colorado’s fence-lined rural roads is equally familiar with the sight of birds and big-game animals caught in those fences.
In response to a recent study by Utah State University, the Colorado Division of Wildlife has published “Fencing With Wildlife in Mind,” a guide for anyone interested in building a wildlife-friendly fence.
“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.”
The University of Utah study looked at 600 miles of fence line and found woven-wire fences topped with a single-strand of barbed wire to be the most lethal to wildlife.
Other findings included: One animal was found dead next to fences every 1.2 miles; most animals died by getting caught in the top two wires while trying to jump; and young animals are eight times more likely to die in fences than adults.
The report says 90 percent of the carcasses found near fences were of young animals separated from their mothers.
The report also noted wildlife officers reported decorative and wrought-iron fences, while not part of the study, were dangerous to urban and suburban animals.
The best fences for wildlife, the study said, are highly visible to large animals and birds, allow wildlife to jump over or crawl under them and do not block access to important habitats and travel corridors.
Among the publication’s recommendations for wildlife-friendly fencing:
A smooth top wire or rail no more than 42 inches from the ground.
Leaving at least 12 inches of space between the two top wires.
Leaving the bottom post or wire smooth and at least 16 inches off the ground.
Adding some lower sections to allow easy crossing.
And adding a high-visibility wire or flagging 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.”
The brochure “Fencing With Wildlife in Mind” is available at the DOW website, wildlife.state.co.us/landwater/privatelandprogram/hpp, and can be downloaded for use.
The publication explains how to build a variety of wildlife-friendly fences. It 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.