Community Agriculture Alliance: Fencing with wildlife in mind
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Robert Frost wrote in “Mending Wall” that “good fences make good neighbors.” Whether those neighbors are our fellow landowners, livestock, wildlife and even passersby, there is no doubt that fencing is needed in many circumstances.
Fencing helps to delineate property boundaries, contain livestock and pets, prevent trespass, protect our growing food sources and our apiaries. However, fences can be travel barriers and inflict injury or death upon our wildlife who traverse the landscape irrespective of private property boundaries in search of their daily life requirements. Not to mention, wildlife can cause extensive damage to sections of fencing particularly during migration events.
Many landowners understand that issue to be very costly. One could argue that bad fencing creates a struggle between people and wildlife. How can we go from a bad fence with bad neighbors to a good fence with good neighbors?
As I travel throughout Routt County, I can see that many fences tend to betray their age, and several landowners have begun to take on the monumental task of rebuilding their fences. After pulling wire for several summers as a teenager, I know it is a tough job.
A tough job I face now along with those landowners is when wildlife get caught in fences. On some occasions, we are able to get the animals free with minimal injury, other times, the injuries are too great for survival, or the animal has already succumbed to extensive time and stress from being trapped in the fence. This situation does not work well for anyone.
Fortunately, landowners across the state have decided to take action and consider wildlife when replacing or constructing new fences — fences that can still achieve their desired effect while also maintaining a positive relationship with our wildlife neighbors, and there is where we reach our goal of a good fence.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife understands the struggles and has worked closely with landowners over the years to develop strategies to mitigate conflict and allow for proper functioning of fences. From the Greer Ranch near Springfield, where multiple types of wildlife-friendly fencing strategies are employed, to the Hayden Ranch in Lake County, where fencing strategies have allowed the continued production of cattle while preserving wildlife habitat and recreation along the Arkansas River, along with many other examples, display how landowners have worked with CPW to develop effective, safe and wildlife-friendly fences.
When considering either building or replacing an outdated fence, consider your needs as well as past conflicts. Typical fencing issues arise with wildlife when fences are:
• Too high to jump.
• Too low to crawl under.
• Have loose wires.
• Have wires spaced too closely together.
• Difficult for fleeing animals or birds to see.
• Create a complete barrier.
Once you have identified your needs and past conflicts, reach out to your local district wildlife manager to develop strategies and designs to meet your requirements while preventing conflicts with wildlife. Working closely with CPW to develop a fencing program has many benefits, including potential funding from your local Habitat Partnership Program, reduced conflict and damages and healthier sustainable wildlife populations.
To contact your local district wildlife manager, call the Steamboat Springs CPW office at 970-870-2197. Let’s build good fences together.
Kyle Bond is district wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife.
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