Book: Fencing
Chapter: 9 Fencing ­- special uses
Section: Deer fencing
Metadata: Details Buy this book

Deer fencing is erected for any of the following purposes:

  1. To exclude deer from woodlands, including plantations, coppiced woodlands, newly planted amenity woodlands and those where natural regeneration is needed to maintain or extend woodland cover.
  2. Exclosure fences may also be needed to protect high-value horticultural and agricultural crops.
  3. To enclose deer in a farm or park.

The type of fencing used is related to need, with the highest, most secure and most expensive systems used for perimeter fencing to enclose deer farms. Exclosure fences around newly planted woodlands also need to be secure if planting is going to be successful. For regenerating woodlands or coppice, a system that keeps out most deer and reduces damage to an acceptable level may be sufficient.

Full-height (1.8m) wire netting for deer fencing was designed for deer farming, and is not always suitable for woodland exclosures or other uses. The rolls of netting are extremely heavy and require machine access along the fence line, and the netting is difficult to fit neatly on undulating ground. The Forestry Commission designs (see designs and siting) or other systems described below are more versatile, and suit most woodland situations.

The information in this section concentrates on techniques to manage deer with woodlands, as most conservation deer fencing work is for this purpose. Some of the materials and techniques of fencing are the same as for high specification enclosure fences.

Deer have become an increasing problem in nearly all areas of the country, and the deer population is thought to be higher now than at any time in history. Coppice regrowth and natural regeneration of trees is impossible in many places without fencing or other protection. In some areas muntjac deer are causing significant damage to the ground flora of woodlands. For further information on deer management and fencing, see Forestry Commission Practice Notes FCPN6 (1999) and FCPN9 (1999).

There are three basic approaches to controlling deer damage to woodlands, which may need to be used in combination:

  1. Fencing or tree guards. Netting or mesh fences are necessary, as deer can push between the wires of line wire fencing. Muntjac can push under netting, which must be lapped or buried as for rabbits (see special uses). Temporary electric fencing can be effective (see special uses). Tree guards must be of sufficient height and robust enough to resist damage.
  2. Providing alternative grazing and browsing to divert attention away from the areas you want to protect.
  3. Culling of population. Culling has to be organised on a local area basis, as deer will rapidly move into woodland where culling has taken place. Contact the local Forestry Commission office as there may be a deer management group in your area. Income from shooting or sales of venison may be useful in supporting woodland management. See McKinley, Roger (1999) for further details. The design of new woodland should include features which make safe culling possible, such as wide, sunny rides to attract deer, with access routes for stalking.

Note that deer can easily injure themselves by attempting to jump normal stock fences. Standard height stock netting fences topped with one or two lines of barbed or plain wire, giving a total height of about 1m (3'), are a frequent cause of injury. As the deer tries to jump, its leg can get entangled in the top wires, where it dies a lingering death. Hinged joint stock netting, as opposed to the more rigid 'Stiffstay' or 'Tightlock' types (see materials), can also cause injury as the hinged joints can collapse and trap a deer's leg. Properly constructed deer fencing of the correct height should not be the cause of injury, as deer will not attempt to jump. Where standard height stock fencing is erected at points where deer frequently attempt to cross, it may be better to use 90cm (3') high rigid netting with a plain wire at the bottom, rather than at the top of the fence.


In many parts of the country coppicing is urgently needed to restore old coppice woodlands to their proper cycle, but the browsing of regrowth is a serious problem. Coppicing is an ancient way of managing woodlands, and has many benefits for wildlife. Note the following:

  1. The regrowth is most vulnerable to browsing in the first
  2. half of the year after the coppice has been cut. By the middle of the following year, most coppice growth will be safe from browsing, though this will vary with the species of tree, rate of growth, and the species of deer involved. As a rule, protection for three years from the winter of coppicing should be the provision.
  3. By providing new browsing and grazing opportunities, coppicing itself encourages deer into an area, so locally increasing the population.
  4. It may be too expensive in fencing to exclude all deer, but if most can be excluded, the damage may be reduced to an acceptable level. It may be possible to cull those individuals that do get in.
  5. Temporary, easily moveable fencing systems are useful for coppice management, so the fence can be relocated as coupes (areas of coppice) are successively cut.
  6. Clear, wide rides which deer have to cross before they reach a fence can increase the effectiveness of the fence.
  7. Browsing areas outside the fence can divert attention from the protected areas of coppice.
  8. Low pollards, cut above the height of the deer species involved, can be a satisfactory alternative to fencing for 'non-commercial' coppice. Low pollards look rather ugly when cut, although re-growth rapidly softens the appearance of the pollards. Pollarding may reduce the value of the stems when they are cropped, but the habitat provided for invertebrates and other organisms is comparable to coppice. Less desirable tree species can be cut to ground level, where re-growth will be heavily browsed.
  9. The size of coupes, particularly for non-commercial coppice, is often small. The resulting high perimeter-to-area ratio of fence to area protected may make standard deer fencing too expensive.
  10. Where there is plenty of voluntary labour, the construction of 'dead hedging' can be a viable method of protecting coppice, although it is not proof against muntjac, which push through.

Dead hedging

This can be constructed using some of the material cut during coppicing, and has the benefit of using material that might otherwise be burnt or left on the coppice floor. It requires no expenditure except time, and using only materials from the wood, avoids the need to transport fencing materials to the site. Properly constructed, it will last long enough to protect the new regrowth, and then will rot down in situ, with no clearing up costs. The dead hedge provides useful habitat for nesting birds, small mammals and other creatures.

With practice, two people can erect 20m a day. For the stakes, use stout coppice poles about 1.8m (6') long, pushed firmly into the ground in double lines about 1m (3') apart, with the poles about 3m (10') apart in each line and staggered. Use a crowbar to make pilot holes as necessary. Fill between the stakes with coppice material, pressed down firmly to make a barrier about 1m (3') wide, and about 1.5m (5') high. When the barrier reaches about 1m (3') high, stand on it to compress it, and then continue. The dead hedge should be checked regularly, and any weak points strengthened with branches or coppice material.


An alternative method is simply to lay the material on the ground with the brushy tops facing outwards in the direction of attack, and the butt ends towards the newly-cut coppice. Pile the material up to form a dense barrier at least 3m (10') wide and 1.5m (5') high. This is quick to erect, but requires a large volume of material, plus enough to plug gaps as soon as they appear. A white tape attached to stakes to give extra height may act as a further deterrent.

Temporary electric fencing

Various systems may be suitable (Chapter 8), although they may not be 100% effective against all species. Deer species differ in their susceptibility to electric shocks, with red deer the most, and roe deer the least susceptible.

Various systems are recommended by manufacturers (see suppliers). The following has proved successful in protecting areas of coppice in NW England (Enact, Vol 3, No 3) against roe deer.

This system has three lines of high visibility electric tape. Its effectiveness is based on deer receiving a sufficiently severe shock on their first encounter that they do not attempt another approach.


The system shown below has been successfully used at Monks Wood, Cambridgeshire, to reduce damage to coppice regrowth by muntjac deer to an acceptable level. The fence is used for about 18 months following coppicing in late winter. Rides next to fenced areas are important in improving the effectiveness of the fence. The fencing system is supplied by Ridley Rappa (see supppliers).


Semi-permanent electric systems

Other electric systems use a separate electric fence consisting of a single wire 900mm (3') high, and positioned 1.2m (4') from a non electric fence 1.2m (4') high, of stock netting and/or line wires. The single electric wire, placed on the side of attack, is normally enough to keep deer away, and deter them from attempting to jump the main fence. For further details see permanent electric fencing.

An electric scare wire fixed on off-set brackets at 900mm (3') height may also be useful to discourage deer from trying to force their way through a high fence of netting or line wires. For further details see permanent electric fencing.

Semi-permanent or permanent electric line wire deer fences are not recommended, as the lines have to be so close together to prevent deer getting through that the fence works equally well unelectrified! Netting is much more effective than multiple line wires for non-electric fencing.

Temporary and reusable non-electric fencing

The systems described below are useful for temporary fencing of coppices or newly planted woodland.

Plastic deer netting for temporary fencing has the advantage of light weight and reusability. The following types are available:

  1. Centrewire supply a high tensile black plastic netting designed for temporary fencing of newly coppiced woodland to exclude deer. The netting is 1.5m high, with a mesh size 50 x 65mm, supplied in 100m rolls.
  2. Netlon supply a UV stabilised polypropylene netting for temporary or permanent deer fencing. The netting is 1.8m high with 91 x 91mm mesh, and supplied in 100m rolls. Each roll weighs 22kg.
  3. Tenax deer fence is a lightweight polypropylene net 1.8m high, supplied in 100m rolls, from The Farm Forestry Co. Ltd.
Table 9.4 Temporary Netting: requirements (Forestry Commission FCPN9, 1999)

Deer species Height Minimum mesh size

Fallow 1.5m 220 x 200mm

Roe 1.2m (for areas less than 2.5ha, which 200 x 150mm
>deer will tend to walk around)
>1.5m (for areas more than 2.5ha)

Muntjac 1.5m, plus 150mm lap at base 75 x 75mm

Metal straining posts have been trialled (see Forestry Commission Practice Note FCPN9,1999) but in practice have been found to be more expensive and less satisfactory than traditional wooden strainers. For straining high tensile plastic deer netting, Centrewire recommend 2.4m (8') x 125mm (5") diameter strainers with conventional struts, and 2.1m (7') x 75mm (3") diameter intermediates at 5m (16') spacings, with 2 lines of 2mm high tensile wire to which the netting is attached with netting clips. For temporary fences, locally cut non-preserved poles are ideal for stakes and struts, and where large enough poles are available, for strainers also.

The following wire netting is available:

Cyclone high tensile netting A15/1550/150 is available from the McArthur Group. This does not require line wires, and should be strained and attached as for other high tensile netting (see techniques for post and wire fencing).

Lightweight hexagonal mesh in 1.5m (5') height and 50mm (2") mesh is available, but is less satisfactory than the above products because it cannot be strained.

Muntjac deer are a problem as they push underneath the fence, and measures to prevent this will add considerably to the cost of the fence. In addition to the loss of height which would result, it's not possible to fold over the bottom edge of the high tensile plastic net as this prevents effective straining. Either:

  1. Add hexagonal mesh (1050mm, 31mm mesh, 18gauge) in the same way as for rabbit fencing (see design and siting). Depending on the type of netting used for the deer fence, an extra line wire may need to be added at 900mm height for attachment of the rabbit/Muntjac netting.
  2. Use high tensile wire badger/deer fencing (Tornado), which is designed to be partly buried. This is an expensive option however.

Woodland planting and regeneration

In many areas of the country, any newly planted trees or naturally regenerating trees will have to be protected from deer, until they have grown out of reach of browsing. Individual protection of young trees will be more economical for smaller areas and for widely-spaced trees (see special uses).

The dead hedging or temporary electric fencing described above may be suitable if protection is only required for a couple of seasons, or if a low level of damage is acceptable. Commercial plantations or woods that need long term protection will require permanent deer fencing. Designs for strained wire fences are shown in chapter 1.

Deer leaps

Deer 'leaps' should be included when designing permanent deer fences for woodland, and if possible for temporary systems. A leap allows any deer that get into the exclosure to escape. The best method is to site the fence so that a section can be fitted against a cliff or 1.8m (6') high cutting in a hillock, preferably with gentle slopes running along the line of the fence, to encourage deer up onto the leap.

Deer parks and farms

Traditionally, deer were enclosed in deer parks by walls or by high paling fences. An example of an oak paling fence surrounding a deer park still in use is given on wooden fencing.

Modern deer farms are enclosed using high tensile netting systems, with Tornado (see suppliers) a specialist in this area. Sizes of deer netting are given on materials. Strainers can be built either using a straining post with strut and retaining wire (see Forestry Commission design, page 55), or using a box strainer, an example of which is shown below.


Note the following:

  1. There is increased pressure on fences from enclosed but non-domesticated animals. If frightened, they may attempt to jump or break through any fence, however high and secure.
  2. The chance of animals escaping must be minimised. Unlike domestic animals, once through the fence, deer are unlikely to be recaptured.
  3. Special provision must be made at gateways to prevent animals escaping while, for example, feed is being brought in.


  4. Handling systems must be included, for deer to be restrained for examination, treatment and so on. These should be of close vertical board fence, at least 2m high, with no gaps where the animals can see out. Deer can jump or clamber over extreme heights when cornered.

Fences to enclose deer therefore have to be built to the highest specification, so there is no risk of failure. For further information contact fencing suppliers and contractors with experience of deer farming systems.

Erection of deer fencing

The basic procedure is the same as a normal height strained wire fence. Note the following:

  1. Posts and full-height deer netting are extremely heavy and bulky to carry, and suitable transport (see safety, equipment and organisation) is essential for moving materials onto the site, and preferably along the fence line. Carrying by hand should be kept to an absolute minimum.
  2. Take care when putting straining posts into post holes. Place the post on the ground so the base is its diameter distance from the edge of the hole. With the aid of another person, lift the further end and gradually raise the post to the vertical. Then lift it just high enough to move it sideways and gently down into the hole. Take care not to dislodge the foot (see techniques) from the base of the strainer. Don't try and hoist the post directly into the hole, or you will dislodge soil back down into the hole.
  3. Preferably use a machine (see safety, equipment and organisation) for knocking in intermediate stakes. The next best method is to drive a suitable vehicle close enough to stand safely on it and knock the stake in with a mell.
  4. If no vehicle is available, use a post-driver as follows. Lay the stake down with the point to the pilot hole in the ground. Put the post-driver over the stake top and raise the stake to the vertical. Then reach up and use the post-driver as normal. Take great care when removing the post-driver from the stake top as the base of the tool will be lifted up to head height, and it can easily topple over. Safety helmets must be worn.
  5. The stakes must be firm in the ground. Their height gives extra leverage compared to normal height posts, and pressure from wind or animals can loosen them. Keep knocking the posts in until they are solid, even if this takes them below fence height. Add an extra piece, nailed on as shown, to give the required height.


Netting on strained line wires

If using the Forestry Commission system of two widths of netting lashed to three spring steel line wires (see designs and siting), follow this procedure:

  1. Erect the straining and turning posts and run out the bottom and centre wire.
  2. Knock in the intermediate stakes, and run out the top wire. Staple all wires to stakes to a running fit. Starting with the bottom wire and working upwards, strain to final tension and fasten off at straining posts with fence connectors.
  3. Unroll the bottom netting, tension it and fasten off. Attach it to the bottom wire with lashing rods.
  4. Unroll the top netting, tension it and fasten off. Attach the bottom of the net, together with the top of the bottom net, to the centre wire. Attach to the top wire.
  5. If using rabbit netting as the bottom netting, this is easier to attach with netting rings. In this case attach the top netting to the top and middle wires first with lashing rods, and then attach the rabbit netting. Turn out the bottom 150mm (6") and cover with turves or secure with pegs. This technique is also necessary to proof the fence against muntjac deer, which break through by pushing under, rather than attempting to jump.

Remember to gather tools and so on to your side of the fence before you start attaching the netting, or you may have a long walk round!

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