Every night, all across America, hungry deer tiptoe out into farmer’s fields. Deer that are especially hungry or bold don’t even wait for nightfall. Either way, one thing is certain: We only get the leftovers.
Deer-related agricultural losses are hard to quantify. But we do know that here in the U.S., each of our 30 million or so deer eats an average of around 3,000 pounds of vegetation per year. (Depending on its size and appetite, your deer may vary.) A lot of those deer live in farm country, where crops like soybeans, corn, and alfalfa can make up over 85% of their diet. The numbers add up.
For most crops, however, deer-proof fences just aren’t affordable or practical. In the animal Olympics, deer can kick cows’ asses when it comes to the running high jump. Your basic five-strand barbwire fence isn’t much of an obstacle for them. To be totally reliable, a deer-proof fence needs to be at least eight feet high. That’s why you’ll only see them around small-acreage, high-value, deer-candy crops like cranberries, apples, or strawberries.
I recently snapped a couple shots of this eight-foot, outward-leaning electric fence at a U-Pick-‘Em strawberry operation. While this fence also deters any young humans who start getting ideas about picking a few strawberries after the bars close, it’s mainly there for the deer. (Although fairly intelligent, deer have not yet learned to use wire cutters with insulated handles.) A few feet from the fence, I saw deer tracks in the mud. Apparently a scout had been there the night before, probing for vulnerabilities.
As I write this, I’m realizing that a large percentage of my recent posts have shared a similar theme, both conceptually and visually. There was the electrified bear fence at my local transfer station, wolf fladry around the perimeter of a cattle ranch, various deer exclosures, and now this. By now you could be wondering if I have, like maybe… “Boundary issues.” I do not.
But deer do.
I’m done with fences for now. Next time, something completely different—and even a short break from deer: Wolf Genetics, and Why it Suddenly Matters.
© 2011 Al Cambronne