Whitetail deer are surprisingly agile animals, as most of us know. Since they’re not exactly tame, it can be hard to know their exact athletic abilities but it’s something to consider if you’re living in deer country. Many of us grow vegetables and we know the pain when the whitetail population starts getting high. Fences are definitely an option, but the real question for most of us is how high can a deer jump?
Theory vs. Practice
In sheer theory, deer can jump seriously high. Depending on who you ask, you’ll see numbers ranging from six to twelve feet with some sources even claiming fifteen feet is attainable for particularly athletic deer.
It’s definitely not hard to find footage of them being able to clear fences six or eight feet in height, and footage exists of some even higher as well.
In practice, however, deer rarely jump over things which are more than eight feet in height. This is for a pretty simple reason: the consequences of falling when clipping an obstacle that high are pretty severe and usually it’s easier to go around or under objects such as deer fences.
A deer who’s not terrified likely isn’t going to be jumping over anything six feet or higher. Think of it this way: you could probably jump off of a second story building and remain mostly unharmed if you’re in good shape and were in control during the leap… but it’s still risky and it’s still going to hurt when you hit the ground.
The deer is going to feel the same way, they don’t want to risk getting hurt just to get a snack. They’ll take the easiest route and if things seem too hard for a bite to eat they’re not going to bother.
On the other hand, a deer who’s running from a predatory animal or hunter is going to virtually soar across any non-specialized fencing without a second thought.
Building Deer Fences
Since deer can be pest animals in some areas, a lot of people worry about how high to build their fence. They leave out one crucial detail in their worrying, however, which is the fact that it’s not really about how high it is so much as what kind of fence you’re working with.
If you’re looking to keep deer off of your property, then you’ll need to make sure that you build a fence the right way. If they’re not a serious issue a six to eight foot high fence can normally keep them off but in places with heavy populations that’s just not going to be enough.
Some people will just build a higher fence, but that’s not always the right way to go about things.
Building a fence that is ten feet or more high gets expensive in a hurry, and not everyone can afford to do so. Even then there are cases where an especially spooked animal might take the leap and end up where it shouldn’t be. Height isn’t the key to making sure they stay out, instead you can manipulate their perception.
What you do is take advantage of the lack of depth perception that deer possess As prey animals, they have their eyes on the sides of their head which makes it harder for them to focus exactly where they’re going.
This naturally means there are a few ways to discourage them.
You have two options at the end of the day, and both of them come with their own pros and cons.
The Double Fence
By setting up a double fence you can greatly discourage deer from taking advantage of your vegetable garden. It’s also a lot simpler to construct than an angled fence.
All you’ll need to do is build a second perimeter fence around the first one. You could, for instance, make a four foot high wall or fence a few feet from the outside of the primary fencing which will likely be six or eight feet high.
You can get away with constructing one pretty easily if you opt to use scrap wood for the second fence. Remember that you’re just increasing the perceived height of the fence it’s not an actual physical barrier for the deer.
Only the most desperate of deer will even attempt to make the jump if you’ve set things up properly, but it comes with the disadvantage of consuming a lot more materials than you’d have to use with a single fence.
- Super simple construction, just build a second fence
- Will keep deer from jumping and doesn’t look out of place
- Time consuming
- Uses a lot more materials
By angling a fence at 45° you can create an almost perfect defence against deer. This is a lot more time consuming to produce and takes a little bit more skill than just making a ramshackle outer fence to go around the one you already have but it will confuse deer and they won’t dare to jump over it.
If you angle things outwards it has the added advantage of keeping other pests from invading as well, including animals like raccoon and tree squirrel.
This works by confusing the deer’s perception and you need to keep it at 45°, any greater or smaller of an angle and they may be able to perceive the proper height and you’ve lost the advantage.
This addition is also nice since it won’t cut off the view of your land since it doesn’t need to be particularly high. Many people find that just four feet or so will do it.
- Increased visibility
- Not many materials needed
- Keeps out climbing pests like raccoon
- Takes more skill to build
- Not suitable for all areas
Whether you’re just curious or want to keep deer off your delicious vegetable garden, knowing how high a deer can jump is important. The truth is, they can jump high enough to handle pretty much any fencing but with some clever fencing manipulation you’ll be in good hands at the end of the day.
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