Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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Publisher's Corner: 08/15/2015

Don’t fence me in (or out)

There’s something that has been bothering me for a while now. In fact it really steams me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve herded deer down one of our local roads, creeping along at five miles per hour as the terrified animals try to find somewhere to get off the road. The culprit? Inappropriate fencing. The animals are trapped in a corridor of 8-foot deer fences that aren’t surrounding anything other than someone’s vacation property.

It’s especially bad in the summertime, and in times of drought when deer and other animals are roaming around in search of water.

It’s high time we had a campaign to educate people about appropriate vs. inappropriate fences. Often new property owners are only copying the style of fencing that already exists in their neighborhood, even when they don’t have a vineyard or a vegetable garden that needs protecting. Then others see their fence and do the same. It’s a self-perpetuating disaster for wildlife, and it’s also just plain ugly. My favorite type of fence is no fence at all, but if you must have one, there are so many different styles that look beautiful and allow for wildlife to roam around.

The following suggestions are from the Sonoma Ecology Center (SEC):

• For many purposes – to mark property boundaries, to keep vehicles out of an area, to contain livestock, etc. – you can use bollards or fences that don’t impede wildlife.

• If you need to use fencing that keeps wildlife out, only fence the smallest area necessary to protect gardens, vulnerable house pets, crops or agricultural facilities from wildlife. No wildlife-excluding fence should contain natural habitat.

• Consider whether you have old fencing that you don’t need, that if removed would make your place more inviting for wildlife.

• Fencing materials have a finite lifetime. When materials need replacement and maintenance, this is a logical time to reconsider the layout and design of existing fences. In many cases, a more wildlife-friendly fencing design can be found that will meet your needs.

The SEC also says, “Generally, a fence that’s over five or six feet high, or that extends lower than 18 inches off the ground, can prevent animals from moving across the landscape to find safety from predators, water, food, and shelter.” And I would add, in this drought-stricken climate, from wildfire, too.

When I was growing up in Texas there was an anti-litter campaign that worked beautifully because it appealed squarely to the main culprits – guys in pick-up trucks (we called them Bubba). The slogan was “Don’t Mess With Texas.” It’s time for a really great PR campaign to convince people to either not put up fences in the first place, only put up the right type of fencing, or to tear out unnecessary fences. Any suggestions?

– Ann


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