FENCING & CONTAINMENT EDITION


Keeping Deer and Bear Out

What's the best fencing for you?
By Kathleen Hatt


For whatever reason, problems with deer, bear and smaller wildlife are increasing. Causes may include population increases, loss of habitat, crop appeal or all of the above. "When I began selling fencing 35 years ago, 75 to 80 percent was to keep livestock in; now 75 percent is to keep wildlife out," says David Kennard, sheep farmer and owner of Wellscroft Fence Systems in Harrisville, N.H. "In some areas of the Northeast, wildlife pressure on crops has increased as much as tenfold," he adds.

In the Northeast, a number of fencing options are available to deter or exclude Pooh Bear and Bambi. Along with fencing, non-fence techniques may also be used, such as chemical repellents, natural repellents, noisemakers, guard dogs and hunting.

When deciding how to protect your area from wildlife, consider the following:

Eight-foot-high woven wire deer fence with a 98-inch-by-10-foot gate with 4x4 mesh.

Eight-foot-high woven wire deer fence with a 98-inch-by-10-foot gate with 4x4 mesh.

Protecting crops from deer

Electric fences suitable for deer exclusion range from one to three tapes or ropes to 3-D tape or rope fence (two fences 4 feet apart) to eight-wire, vertical, high-tensile electric fence to woven wire topped by an electric wire. Baited 2-D tape is very effective because it flutters in the breeze, scaring deer. The cost of electric fences for deer exclusion range from 30 cents to $2.90 per foot.

Although it is excellent for containing domestic animals, poly wire should not be used to try to exclude deer. Deer need the visual thickness of tape or rope and seem to think poly wire looks like twigs that they can walk through, explains Kennard.

Nonelectric fences designed to exclude deer range from an easily installed and moved anti-deer mesh or net at $1.60 to $2.40 per foot to 8-foot-high woven wire at $1.30 to $2.25 per foot.

Of all the systems designed to keep deer out, an 8-foot-high, fixed-knot, woven wire fence is the most effective and, in the long run, most economical, says Kennard. Although it requires more labor to erect than net or electric fencing, many farmers find that it pays for itself in crop savings in the first two years. One-piece verticals resist snow and ice as well as penetration by deer. To be effective and long-lasting (25 to 30 years or more), fixed-knot, woven wire fences must be braced. Cost of materials runs $2.25 to $4.25 per foot.

Where woodchucks, raccoons, skunks and the like are also a problem, a baited electrical offset wire can be added to prevent them from climbing over or digging under a physical fence.

Electric and effective

Whichever electric fence you choose, you must:

1 Keep the fence energized and properly grounded at all times. An animal's first encounter with a fence will influence its behavior in the future. Therefore, be sure to energize the fence at the end of every workday during the time when the fence is being installed.

2 Remove brush and maintain a clear lane on the outside of the fence so that wildlife can see the fence. The fence should be at least 6 feet from the edge of any wooded area.

3 It is very important to bait the fence. The shock to the nose or mouth that wildlife receive when they investigate scent caps or aluminum foil-wrapped peanut butter will keep them away from the fence and the crops within.

4 Run at least 3,500 volts through the fence. Use a fence tester to check voltage and a fence alert to confirm that the fence is active.

5 Remove psychological fences at the end of the growing season. If non-energized fencing is kept in place, deer will learn to run through it.

Eight-foot-high, fixed-knot, black woven wire deer fence is probably the most
cost-effective and permanent way to exclude deer.

Eight-foot-high, fixed-knot, black woven wire deer fence is probably the most cost-effective and permanent way to exclude deer.

The buzz on bears and hives

Whatever their motivation, be it crunchy pupae, larvae, eggs and immature bees full of fat and protein (as a few researchers have suggested) or, as more commonly accepted, the sweetness of honey, bears need a lot of persuasion to keep them from the contents of a beehive. The best way to keep bears from hives depends to a large extent on whether the exclusion needs to be seasonal or temporary, semipermanent or permanent. Whatever the choice, the fence should have an electrical component.

Fencing for a while - or longer

Seasonal or temporary exclusion - For beehives that need seasonal protection, periodic access or shielding as they are moved from crop to crop, electric netting is the easiest and most convenient fencing. It will also keep skunks out of hives. Easy to set up and take down, electric net fences are more durable and less unwieldy than poly wire or tape systems. Kennard recommends either ElectroNet or Quick Ground netting powered by a plug-in 110-volt battery or solar energizer. Four D-cell batteries will power the system for eight weeks.

Semipermanent exclusion - For beehives in a more or less permanent location, Kennard suggests an electric, four-strand, low-tension wire or tape fence, an electric rope or tape fence, MaxiShock cable, or 14-gauge wire spaced 8, 16, 24 and 32 inches above the ground. This method is somewhat less effective than electric netting at keeping out skunks. In dry areas, ground the fence either by making one of the wires negative or by laying chicken wire down under the fence.

Permanent exclusion - For permanently located beehives, the best fencing is constructed of high-tensile woven wire with an electric offset at the top. Use either a 110-volt plug-in charger or a solar energizer to power the system. To discourage theft, hide the energizer in a bee superstructure. Permanent fencing installation tends to be more expensive and is initially more labor-intensive than other methods.

Easily installed, plastic anti-deer
mesh resists light deer pressure.
Smaller wildlife will chew through it.

Easily installed, plastic anti-deer mesh resists light deer pressure. Smaller wildlife will chew through it.

Effective beehive fencing depends on:

Tips for installing and using beehive fencing

Energizers should be placed on a wooden block or concealed inside a superstructure inside the fence and above the ground to prevent accidental bear damage, theft, and insects and moisture from damaging electronics. Spray insecticide inside the energizer case once a year to keep small insects from shorting out the circuit board.

Electric netting, such as ElectroNet, is the easiest and most convenient
seasonal or temporary fencing for beehives.

Electric netting, such as ElectroNet, is the easiest and most convenient seasonal or temporary fencing for beehives.

Where the ground is dry or there is snow, alternating positive with negative (Pos/Neg) wires in a four-wire system gives bears a strong shock when they touch both the positive and negative wires at the same time.

To add visibility and movement to a multi-strand fence, add a strand of .5-inch electric tape.

Some newer electric fencing components:

Making the right fence decision

Contact your local county agents or fencing suppliers for help in designing and selecting the best fencing for your situation, and remember to add "Electric Fence" signs to your completed system.

Kathleen Hatt is a freelance writer and editor and a contributor to Farming since 1998. She lives in Henniker, N.H.