Best Management Practices: For Recovering Escaped or Released Farmed Deer or Elk
Table of Contents
Statistic Canada's publication Alternative Livestock on Canadian Farms estimates that in 2001, there were 100 elk farms, 234 deer farms, 5,902 elk and 14,464 deer in Ontario. Not all of these operations are farms. A substantial number of non-farm operations, such as zoos, animal exhibits, petting zoos and private animal collectors, also keep deer and elk.
Cervids currently raised in Ontario include elk, red deer, elk-red deer hybrids, white-tailed deer, fallow deer, sika deer, mule deer and reindeer. For practical purposes, the term "deer" is used in this Factsheet to refer to all species of Cervidae farmed in Ontario.
It is obviously in the farmers' best interest to protect their investment by ensuring their deer remain on the farm premises. Escaped animals may endanger the public, private or public property, their own wellbeing and native wildlife.
Despite the best-possible management practices and proper fencing and handling facilities, there is always the risk of deer escaping from farm premises. The purpose of this Factsheet is to provide deer farmers with some practical suggestions for recovering the escaped animals.
All deer owners - farmers and non-farmers - have legislative responsibilities for reporting escapes and releases and also for recovering their deer, under the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Act, which is administered by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR). These responsibilities are outlined in Recovery Protocol for Escaped or Released Farmed Deer and Elk, produced by the OMNR, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the Ontario Deer and Elk Farmers Association and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.
Although, in many instances, escaped deer will eventually return, following a recovery plan for escaped deer that has been prepared ahead of time should maximize the chances of a successful and timely recovery.
Identify appropriate "recovery paddock(s)" along perimeter fences. The more recovery paddocks there are, the better the chances of recovering escaped deer. Open the gates or cut openings in the perimeter fence of the recovery paddocks to provide the deer with easily accessed points of entry. More than one opening per paddock may increase the chances of the escaped deer entering, should it (they) return, although this also provides the animal(s) with multiple exits.
Figures 1 through 9, on the following pages, show a progression of recovery paddock designs.
To increase the chances of recovering escaped deer, implement the following management practices in your plan:
Figure 1. A gate or section of cut fence swung inwards as much as possible will allow deer to easily enter the paddock from either direction.
The gate or cut section of fence should be angled towards the inside of the paddock(s). The wider the openings, the more likely the deer will enter the recovery paddocks.
Figure 2. If deer approach the opening too quickly, the animals may flow right past the opening, especially if it is too narrow or the gate is not swung open enough.
Figure 3. If the opening or gate is located too close to a corner where two perimeter fences meet, the animals may not turn towards the gate or opening quickly enough, as they round the corner. To avoid this, locate the opening towards the centre of the perimeter fence, away from the corners.
Figure 4. Consider building temporary, portable wing fences made of wire, snow fence or burlap on the outside of the perimeter fence, to funnel the deer into recovery paddocks on their return. Since deer tend to follow fence lines, a gate or wing fence opened outwards may help to funnel returning deer into the paddock, if they are moving towards the open gate in the right direction.
Figure 5. Keep in mind that a gate or wing fence angled outwards may actually impede the recovery process if the deer approach the opening from the wrong direction, as they may flow right past the opening.
Figure 6. To maximize recovery efforts, consider erecting a V-shaped wing fence to channel the deer into the recovery paddock. The only drawback to this set-up is that the deer will not be able to access the paddock if they are moving directly towards the point of the V.
Figure 7. To allow deer approaching the opening at or about a 90° angle to access the paddock, leave an opening between the two wing fences at or near the perimeter fence.
Figure 8. If wing fences do not extend far enough into the paddock, the deer may enter along one wing fence, and immediately exit out along the other wing fence.
Figure 9. To avoid the problem noted in Figure 8, extend the wing fence(s) well inside the opening of the perimeter fence.
The aforementioned tips may help in the successful recovery of escaped deer; however, many escapes can be avoided by implementing the following preventive measures, which are described in more detail in OMAFRA Factsheet 97-027, Fencing for Deer and Elk, by P.E. Martin and R. Wright:
For more information:
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