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Don’t fence me in: CPW officials warn of wildlife conflicts

Deer can get stuck in fences, leading to fatal outcomes
A mule deer survived a rescue by Colorado Parks and Wildlife after it became stuck in a fence on County Road 250. The gate had 6-inch openings, which area the perfect size to entrap young deer. (Courtesy of Colorado Parks and Wildlife)

Young of the year Mule deer – those born last summer – have grown just large enough that wildlife officials are warning of a persistent seasonal problem: fences.

Specifically, fences with 6-inch openings.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife officers in the southwest region respond to dozens of reports each year of deer stuck in fences.

Last week, CPW Assistant Area Wildlife Manager Steve McClung responded to one such call on County Road 250, where a young mule deer had been caught in a fence.

“They see gaps and they try to shoot the gap but they can get in past their shoulders, past their rib cage, and then their pelvis prevents them from going any further,” McClung said. “ … Even an elk calf is probably not going to make it that far. They're going to maybe get their head in there and then back out because their shoulders are too wide, but younger of the year deer are skinny enough that they'll fit through some of these openings.”

McClung was able to gently back the animal out of the fence and release it successfully. But not all incidents go that well.

“Sometimes it's not the happy ending – they get impaled on something or they tear themselves up enough that they're just not going to survive or just exhausted from being in there and just aren't going to make it,” he said.

To prevent these problems, McClung says the best thing to do is avoid gates with 6-inch openings. Fencing with holes a few inches bigger means deer will be able to pass; a few inches smaller means deer are less likely to try and slip through.

If dangerously sized fencing is already in place, CPW suggests covering the openings using a tightly woven nylon or similar cloth.

Wrought iron fences and those with woven wire topped with barbed wire can also be lethal to wildlife, which can end up suspended or impaled.

McClung recommends that anyone putting up fences consult CPW’s pamphlet on wildlife-friendly fencing to prevent these sorts of often-fatal incidents.


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