Low-Cost Fence Designs to Limit Deer Impacts in Woodlands and Sugarbushes

The  white-tailed  deer  (Odocoileus  virginianus)  can  significantly  influence  the  diversity,  longevity  and  sustainability  of  rural  woodlands,  forests  and  maple  syrup  sugarbushes.  As  selective  browsers,  deer  will  eat  some  plants  more  readily  than  they  eat  other  plants.  Many  of  the  tree  species  deer  prefer  to  consume  are  valued  by  owners  as  sources  of  timber,  maple  syrup,  or  as  food-producing  trees  for  wildlife,  such  as  oak  and  maple.  Deer also eat many native wildflower and understory plants which is why so many turn to https://www.deerfencing.com for effective solutions

The effects of deer browsing on woodlands and sugar-bushes can have long-lasting effects (called “legacy” effects) that persist for decades after deer impacts are reduced.  In  areas  with  a  history  of  deer  overabundance,  the  failure  to  establish  and  grow  new,  young  trees is having a detrimental effect on woodlands and the potential to keep these areas healthy and diverse.

Identifying Signs of Deer Overabundance

Recognizing signs of deer overabundance in woodlands is crucial for effective management. These signs include a park-like appearance in the woods, an understory dominated by invasive shrubs, ferns, or non-palatable woody brush, and a browse line along the lower tree canopy. Additionally, cropped tree seedlings and the absence or stunted growth of native wildflowers are indicators of excessive deer browsing. Understanding these signs helps landowners and conservationists assess the health of woodland ecosystems.

Challenges in Deer Population Control

Controlling deer populations to mitigate their impact on native vegetation presents several challenges. Recreational hunting alone often proves insufficient, requiring substantial mortality rates, typically around 40% to 60% of the deer herd annually. However, as the demographic of hunters shifts and access to hunting grounds becomes more limited, the effectiveness of recreational hunting in managing deer populations diminishes. Therefore, alternative strategies are needed to address deer overabundance effectively.

Effective Strategies for Deer Management

Various strategies are employed to mitigate deer impacts, including protecting individual trees with wire cages or tubes and installing fencing for larger areas. These strategies aim to reduce deer browsing pressure and promote woodland regeneration. Research is ongoing to assess the efficacy of different fencing designs, such as plastic mesh and high-tensile wire, in excluding deer and enhancing woodland sustainability. These efforts seek to provide cost-effective options for landowners while ensuring long-term effectiveness.

Implementing Physical Barriers

Physical barriers, such as fencing, are particularly effective in controlling deer impacts on woodlands and sugarbushes. Plastic mesh fencing offers higher material costs but requires less labor for installation compared to high-tensile fencing. Installation involves attaching mesh to trees using batten strips and wire tensioners, with gates created by severing the fence vertically. High-tensile fencing, on the other hand, involves lower material costs but more labor-intensive installation. It utilizes galvanized wire secured to trees with insulators and tensioners.

Monitoring and Maintenance

Regardless of the chosen fencing method, regular monitoring and maintenance are essential to ensure its effectiveness. Inspections should be conducted two to three times per year, especially in the early years after installation. Any damages or breaches should be promptly repaired to prevent deer from accessing protected areas. Ongoing research and monitoring help refine deer management strategies and ensure the long-term sustainability of woodlands and sugarbushes.


Managing deer impacts on woodlands and sugarbushes requires a comprehensive approach that includes population control measures and physical barriers like fencing. By understanding the role of white-tailed deer, identifying signs of overabundance, and implementing effective management strategies, landowners can promote woodland health and biodiversity. Continued research and monitoring are crucial for developing sustainable solutions that balance deer management with ecosystem conservation.