The Development of Baiting Electric Fencing to Improve the Effectiveness.

There are animals around who do not investigate an obstruction and will know if they can clear the obstacle and simply jump over. This was noticed in South Africa in the 1970’s when we found it very difficult to control antelope such as Springbok, Impala and Kudu with standard erected fences, these animals will all comfortably clear a 2-meter-high fence. Erecting higher and higher fences did not solve the problem as they would jump. Even if they struck the top wires they were no longer grounded so not controlled, even worse these heavy animals invariably broke the wires causing the whole fence to be inactive.

 A solution had to be found.

The majority of animals use their nose to investigate an obstruction but the antelope were not investigating the fence, so it was decided to try enticing them to investigate the fence as they approached. An assortment of baits were tried and the fence was immediately able to achieve success. The antelope would be attracted by the sweet smell and sniff or lick it with it's tongue - this tongue is wet and full of very sensitive nerve endings, so they got a good belt which they remembered. This method was found to be very effective and has been the preferred system of encouraging difficult animals to respect an electric fence. After a good belt to the nose a strong psychological barrier does develop in the animal’s brain. We have observed antelope not coming any closer than 10 meters from a fence

Electric Deer Fencing.

In the UK and USA Deer are the problem animal and have been difficult to exclude until this method was introduced. There are old articles suggesting that they cannot be controlled or very complex dual fences need to be constructed.

Remember we need to change the deer's habits built up over a period of time. There are two methods of increasing the effectiveness of the fence. The first is by clearing the brush about 3-5 meters away from the fence. The smaller deer have an inbuilt tentativeness crossing open areas that is reinforced by contact with the fence.

Red Deer in particular has a habit of not investigating an electric fence and simply jump over it. This is in common with the Springbok and Impala of Southern Africa (both of which do comfortably clear a 2 meter high fence) and consequently an effective technique has evolved there whereby the fence is initially baited to attract the target to investigate the fence.

With deer this is done by two methods; -

1/. Little metal Bait Caps containing cotton wool soaked with an apple scented essence attached to the fence. (Neat apple cordial works well.) These are fixed and may be left on the fence and re-baited when necessary.
2/. Lengths of kitchen foil smeared with peanut butter, molasses/treacle or syrup wrapped around the wires at strategic positions of the fence. The possibility of these being detached from the fence creating litter is great so should be removed and replaced if pressure on the fence re-occurs. They do need to fixed to the fence as wind will blow them along the fence.

 The Deer are attracted to these bait by their appearance or smell and are lured into sniffing the fence with their sensitive noses getting an effective sting from the fence. This then creates the psychological barrier in the animal's brain. This shock is a very strong stimulus and deer learn to avoid the fenced area creating a barrier that they are unable to see and consequently do not know how high it goes. To illustrate this further, foxes, rabbits and badgers do not dig under electric fences for the same reason. The deer seldom attempt a second try. This may sound harsh, but the technique is VERY effective and after the first few animals get a sting the rest will learn from their experiences, termed "Socially Conditioned Avoidance," and the fence will be left alone.

The bait may be removed after a week or two. Baiting may be necessary again if another herd comes into the area, the deer begin to test the fence again or after the fence has been off for a while.

ALL mammals use their noses to investigate an obstruction so the aim is to make it easy for them to smell the bait by placing them at the resting nose height of the target animal.

Baiting has also been used to control Elephant and horses very effectively.

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  • Red deer were a real problem – eating the leaves off apple trees as fast as they grew. There was loads of grass & shelter on the outside of our fence, but they just seemed to love our patch; concentrated on trashing the cultivated fruit trees. They’d be mooching round the house at all hours of the day & night. We tried the usual deer scarers, large dog, beefed up part of the the fence to 1.7 – 2m plus & watched them sail over, and tried a waist height electric fence with horizonal spreaders 2m apart (easily cleared). In desperation we took advice & put a BAITED electric fence line at waist height around our boundary. It worked a treat…. The trick is in the bait caps, which we made from metal beer bottle tops with a scrap of fabric or cotton wool to hold the bait held onto the electrified wire with twist of scrap of wire. Initially I baited them with apple juice cordial but later switched to peanut butter as it doesn’t wash out every time it rains. I should think treacle or golden syrup would work too. The theory is that the deer sniff, get a zap, & learn to stay away. They can’t tell how high the shocking part is & so don’t try & jump over. Once they have learnt to avoid the fence you don’t strictly need to keep replenishing the bait. It’s been over two years now since we baited the fence & I’m delighted to say that the deer have stayed out – we still see them, but on the outside of our boundary fence. Our trees have new leaves & side shoots, & even a few apples.

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