Friends of Northern Arizona Forests


Coping with Deer and Elk inside the Exclosures


Obviously, the best tactic for handling deer or elk in the exclosures is to never allow them in there in the first place. This requires keeping the fences maintained year-round to the full 8' standard (the new and higher standard that replaces the 7' standard of 2010 and which was already higher than most fences on the District).  Also, it requires fixing breaches early in the spring before the deer or elk arrive back in the high country.

Because fence breaches do happen, we have two sets of guidelines for performing repairs while keeping in mind the well being of the animals that may be inside. One set of guidelines is for small/medium exclosures (under ten acres) and the second is for large exclosures (over ten acres). In addition, we need to treat calving season and the weeks immediately afterwards when fawns are small and likely to hide motionless in the undergrowth differently than later in the summer when fawns are older and able to run with their mothers/herd. Our thinking behind treating the exclosures differently based on size and time of year is to allow fence stewards to perform repairs for most of the year on small/medium exclosures (of which we have many) while at the same time minimizing the chance of inadvertently trapping one or more animals inside.


Intervals when elk and deer give birth around Flagstaff

Elk: May 15 to June 30. Peak birth rate occurs in the first two weeks of June.

Mule deer: July 15 to August 30. Peak occurs last week of July and first week of August.

Some general principles for coping humanely with elk and deer appear immediately below. Detailed procedures for specific contexts appear in the table, given later.


Small and Medium Exclosures

Before sealing up a breached exclosure you should check for deer and elk. If it's during calving season or in the weeks immediately afterward, you should undertake an exhaustive search to ascertain whether the animals have vacated. Otherwise, a few transects through the interior should be enough to determine whether the exclosure is free of animals. If you find any animals, quietly drive them out before sealing up the exclosure. If you discover a very young fawn, do not seal the fence until later in the summer. The presence of one young fawn may indicate that there are others and they can be very difficult to find. The best policy is to leave the fawn or calf alone and let the mother lead it out of the exclosure. Usually in a couple of weeks the fawn or calf is up and will follow its mother rather than be left alone.


Large Exclosures

Without advance preparation, a small team of people cannot clear a large exclosure with a high enough level of certainty to close it up permanently. Elk and deer are creatures of habit, however, and you can use that trait to your benefit. Leave or create a gap for the animals to leave (and enter) the exclosure. Return after a period of time and, with a group, quietly walk across the exclosure toward the gap. The animals will leave through their accustomed route.

May 15 to August 30 Rest of Year
Repair * Rebuild ** Repair Rebuild

Small/medium exclosure


Small/medium
exclosure
Small/medium
exclosure
Small/medium
exclosure
Group walk-through. ***
If no young found
and if adults (if found)
leave, then repair.
If young found, wait
until September.
If no young found but
adults fail to leave,
wait a week and
then try again at a different time of day.
Leave one or more
20' gaps.
Group walk-through.
If no young found and
if adults (if found)
leave, close gaps.
If young found, wait
until September.
If no young found but
adults fail to leave,
wait two weeks and
then try again.
Group walk-through.
If no animals are
found or, if found,
they leave,
then repair.
If animals are found
and they fail to leave,
wait a week, and then
try again at a
different time of day
Leave one or more
20' gaps.
Group walk-through.
If no animals found,
close gaps.
If animals are found and
fail to leave, leave a
20' gap open.
Wait two weeks. Then walk through again.
Large exclosure Large exclosure Large exclosure Large exclosure
Wait until September.
Or, judiciously, same as above?
Plan workdays so as to avoid rebuilding large exclosures during the calving period. Try the route described above. If it fails, open a wide gap, wait two weeks, and try again Leave a 20' gap.
Wait two weeks.
Group walk-through.
If no animals are found or they leave, then close the gap.
Or leave a 20' gap and wait until winter snows arrive. Then inspect and, if appropriate, close the gap.

* By “Repair,” we mean repair one break (due to cutting or snow stress) or one short section of fence where a tree has fallen. This category presumes an otherwise functional exclosure and one that had been functional for many weeks.

** By “Rebuild,” we mean raise the fence on the entire perimeter by unclipping everything and reconstructing at a greater height. In contrast, this category presumes a dysfunctional exclosure to start with.

*** “Group walk-through” is to be done quietly.

Last revised on 26 January 2013


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