Fencing of all types - string, rope, electric fence tape, and round bale plastic wrapping or tennis court nets can cause enormous damage when wild animals become entangled or enmeshed in them. These items are particularly dangerous when discarded, un-tensioned or un-managed and are a regular hazard for wildlife, not least Britain’s wild deer which can get it caught around their heads, legs and bodies.
The Wessex Branch of The British Deer Society, with the support from the Equine Forum, is asking everyone to ensure that temporary fencing and similar materials are prevented from being a hazard to wildlife. A lucky deer, if found quickly, can be helped. However, some are not so fortunate and can die a slow and painful death.
Male deer are especially vulnerable with their antlers becoming further entangled in trees and bushes, and sometimes even with each other.
In the late summer the male Fallow, Red and Sika have finished growing their antlers under the protective velvet sheath which supplies the blood to them. The velvet must then die off and be removed to bare those magnificent antlers that everyone likes to see in the Autumn. The deer will soon be returning to their rutting ground, but at the moment the antlers are itchy, like a healing scab and irritating the male deer, so much so they will try and find anything to relieve this itch by rubbing at all sorts of objects, so making them even more vulnerable to entanglement.
Electric fence tape that divides fields for horses and other stock can be a problem if they are not taut, especially the narrow tape that the deer cannot always see. Deer tend to notice the wide tape more and will sniff at it ending up with a tingling nose! But again it needs to be taut. We have found fields that have been left unoccupied for a while where the tape has been left in place and not energized. It then becomes a hazard because it generally starts to become slack. It should really be dismantled and stored away safely until it is needed next season - this would help tremendously and help to reduce or prevent untold wildlife suffering. We know this cannot be done in all cases, but if checked regularly to make sure it is taut that would help immensely.
This is a year long National campaign, however the most vulnerable time for our larger deer is from August to the next April/May when the three larger species shed their antlers and start the annual cycle of growing them again. As Autumn and the rut approaches the male deer will have re-grown and cleaned their antlers, which takes away the discomfort of shedding velvet, but still leaves them at risk of entanglement. Roe who rut at a different time and shed their antlers at a different time, are equally in danger of getting their antlers entangled. They cast in early winter and remove their velvet by similar methods to their larger cousins in the spring.