Wildlife unfriendly fences can interrupt wildlife habitat connectivity and migration routes and create many other hazards for wildlife.
In a 2020 Wyoming study, each radio-collared mule deer encountered fences an average of 119 times each year and pronghorn antelope encountered fences at more than twice that rate, about 248 times per year. Pronghorn and mule deer alter their natural movement nearly 40% of the times they encounter fences. Such avoidance of fences can drive animals away from high-quality resources and reduce habitat use effectiveness.
A study of antelope, mule deer and elk mortality along 600 miles of road (1,200 miles of fence) in Utah and Colorado found 0.4 mortalities per year per mile of fence or one dead antelope every year per 5.6 miles of fence; one dead mule deer every year per 7.8 miles of fence and a dead elk every year for every 10.3 miles of fence. This equates to one dead animal every 2.5 miles of fence.
A 2020 team of researchers from the University of California at Berkeley produced one of the first large scale fence density models in the western US that estimated that there are more than 621,000 miles of fences, without including urban and suburban property fences. They also found that nowhere in the western U.S. are you more than 30 miles away from a fence, with the average distance being 1.9 miles from any given location.
Woven-wire fence topped with a single strand of barbed-wire is the most lethal fence type; ungulate’s legs are easily snared and tangled between the barbed-wire and rigid woven-wire. About 70% of all mortalities were on fences higher than 40”. Most animals (69% of juveniles and 77% of adults) died by getting caught in the top wires while trying to jump a fence.
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