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Friday, April 20, 2012

Deer Fencing: Pros and Cons

Deer fencing and deer exclosures seem to be buzz words as of late, so I thought I could go over some of the pro's and con's of using this method to assist with deer control.

Pros: The deer exclosures do a reasonably good job of keeping deer out of an area.  Over a period of time the reduction (or elimination) of deer pressure will result in a wide diversity of plants.  The natural seedbank has the ability to remain dormant for a long period of time.  The reduction of deer browse allows these dormant seeds the ability to actually grow.  Another benefit seems to be that the dispersal of invasive plant seeds that would otherwise be disturbed, or carried by the deer seems to disappear.  If you are able to do a good job of removing the invasives from your deer fencing when it is first installed, you should notice a reduction in the invasive species that show up in the area.  The native seed bank is healthier, and does not allow the invasive plants to take as much hold as they would if they did not have the competition from the natives.

Notice the difference on the outside of the fence and the inside of the fence.
Cons:  It may not seem like it, but there are a few cons to deer fencing.  One of the major, and most prohibitive con is the cost of the fencing.  Deer fencing, the installation, and maintenance of the fencing is not inexpensive.   This is an important fact to consider up front.  Another important fact is that while deer fencing is great at ASSISTING with deer control, but should not be the only method that you use.  You should still have a properly managed deer hunt on your property (or talk to your neighbors about coordinating a deer hunt if you are putting an exclosure around your entire property).  The last fact to consider is that while installing a fence will decrease (or eliminate) deer pressure in that area, it will effectively increase deer pressure in another area.  You should be cognizant about this when installing a deer fence and be sure to work with your neighbors, or your surrounding property to continue to manage the deer.  

To sum up my thoughts about deer fencing, I believe that it can be used as an effective management tool, and a learning tool to individuals who may not be aware of how intense the deer pressure is in our area.  If you have a large enough property, it may be prudent to fence off smaller areas of the property to watch the results and keep an active deer management program in place on your property.  Also keep in mind that you must remove the invasives that are in the fenced in area in order to see proper results, and you must stay on top of invasive management while the native plants begin to grow.  If it is properly installed and maintained it can be used as a great accent to your deer management program, however it should never be used as the only type of deer management on your property.

Here are some great examples of the difference between a woodland that has been actively browsed by deer, and a woodland that is in a deer exclosure.  The brilliant white flower: Trillium Grandiflorium (Great White Trillium) is a plant that you rarely see in a woodland with deer pressure.  They are picky to begin with, and if they find a spot they like, they are typically browsed by deer.

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