Conventional wisdom says good fences make good neighbours. When it comes to protecting winter feed and forage from deer, elk and moose, good fences are good business.

The Peace River Forage Association is adding a new dimension to fencing out ungulates – a third dimension.

Three-dimensional fences are constructed with height, depth and width. The resulting visual effect causes wildlife to approach the fence with caution, and an electrified outer fence provides an incentive for the animals to look elsewhere.

“Ungulates have eyes on the sides of their heads, giving them poor depth perception,” explains Talon Johnson, the project coordinator. “They have to slow down and check it out and get a shock when they touch it with their nose. If you shock an animal on nose or face, you’ll turn them around.”

The association started their research in 2010 working with eight producers in the Peace region. They tried a variety of fence designs and monitored the results over two winters.

They found the optimum dimension for the fences are 56 to 60 inches tall on the inside fence, and an electric wire at 34 inches on the outside fence. The spacing of the fences has a sweet spot of 36 inches – less, and wildlife will jump over both fences; more, and they will jump between the fences.

The critical success factor is being able to maintain the electrical current to the fence throughout the winter.

“We didn’t have heavy snowfall during the years that we put up the fences, but we saw good changes in deer and moose patterns,” says Johnson. “Last year we weren’t officially monitoring them and ended up having insane winter conditions, and there were a lot of failures in the 3-D fences because the electricity failed and the animals weren’t getting a shock.”

A second 3-D fence project is now underway, refining the designs, and expanding the regional reach of the research to include partnerships with producers in Cranbrook and Smithers. Ultimately the goal is to provide guidelines for affordable, easy fencing solutions to farmers to secure their feed and protect their investment.

Funding: $87,850 through the federal-provincial Agriculture and Environment Wildlife Fund. (AEWF 13-002)