What is the problem?
Fences are important to manage a rural property to contain stock, domestic pets, safety and to delineate property boundaries. Fences can be an obstacle for wildlife movement, preventing access to habitat necessary for feeding, migration, roosting and breeding. Fences can lead to entanglement resulting in injury or death. They can also funnel wildlife along roads if there are no adequate crossings, causing issues for both wildlife and road-users.
A fauna-friendly fence allows the movement of fauna through the landscape and reduces the risk of entanglement or injury. No single fence is fauna friendly given the variation between animal size, shape and method of mobility. However, fencing design and type needs to be specific to an area and the types of animals which occur there.
Constructing wildlife friendly fences has several benefits, including reduced maintenance, lower costs of installation, being more aesthetically pleasing and better for the welfare of stock.
Barbed wire is a serious risk to wildlife with Grey-headed Flying Foxes, microbats, gliding possums such as Sugar Gliders and owls particularly at risk. Most animals that become entangled on barbed wire die. It is estimated 10’s to 100’s of thousands of wildlife die every year due to entanglement on barbed wire.
Choose fencing materials suitable to the character of your area.
Wood, brick, metal and plain wire can be used in combination to create an effective fence.
Use electric fencing, wire mesh or ringlock carefully as this can limit wildlife movement.
Features of fauna friendly fencing:
- Consider if a fence is really necessary, or if you could define your property using vegetation or posts
- Design your fence to allow wildlife to pass easily
- Make the fence visible to wildlife, with a plastic coated sight wire or other means to highlight the fence
- Use plain wire for the top two strands of the fence
- Keep fence height to no more than 1.2m in height to allow larger animals such as kangaroos to move across the top
- Leave a gap of at least 50cm between the ground and the bottom wire
- If mesh is preferred, then still maintain a gap between the bottom and the ground of at least 50cm. Use mesh with squares of no less than 15cm in size. A capping rail along the top allows for easy movement.
- Plant vegetation along fencelines to assist the movement of wildlife
- Use electric fencing with caution and keep the hotwire above 50cm to allow for small animals to move underneath
- Replace barbed wire with plain wire, or place the barb wire inside split pipe to protect animals from the barbs
- Consider installing gates to allow wombats and other ground species to move through or poles to allow wildlife like koalas to climb over.
A constructed fence may not be necessary to define your property boundary. Consider using a planted screen of indigenous plants, or hardwood fence posts at regular intervals to delineate boundaries. If this doesn’t suit, a simple rural fence of high tension 3 plain wires, with the bottom wire 50cm from the ground, allows wildlife movement while defining the boundary.
Screening using suitable trees, shrubs and grasses provides the best privacy while also adding considerable amenity to your property. Where this is not enough, a solid fence with a 50cm gap at the bottom may provide adequate privacy. Or consider overlapping solid panels with vegetation planted between to provide privacy and still allowing wildlife movement.
The presence of dogs does not deter wildlife from entering a property. Dogs should be confined to an area near the house for safety and securing. For small domestic areas, fauna proof fencing may be used to separate wildlife from dogs. The safest option is a solid, 1.8m high fence, free of vegetation and with bracing inside. Mesh fencing or chain wire can be used, but this will allow fauna movement. Owners should be aware of this and watchful of fauna while on their property.
Consider how wildlife move across the landscape in your area and allow for safe road crossings. This might involve fencing with gaps to allow wildlife to pass through, and prevent funnelling into dangerous locations.
It is important to maintain fences and check for damage. Loose wire can entangle wildlife and poorly strained fences are more likely to trap wildlife. Regular checks can also help in determining where wildlife are regularly crossing and residents can implement measures to assist wildlife passage.
There are also many disused barbed wire fences across the region, consider removing these and disposing of the wire if no longer in use.
Council is able to help in recommending materials and layout of fences to be wildlife friendly. Officers can also recommend indigenous plants for screening and which provide habitat to native animals.
A fence may require a planning permit in certain areas of Nillumbik, please contact Planning Services on 9433 3343 before you engage a contractor and begin works.