The photo below shows a bull elk failing to clear a barbed wire fence at Point Reyes. The fence is on the west side of the Drakes Beach Road shortly after turning onto the road. My friend Daniel Dietrich took this photo, and the two others below, at sunrise a couple of days ago. The bull’s left rear leg has been snagged by the upper wire and possibly the second wire. Without a photo from the other side it’s not possible to tell if its right rear leg is snagged.
Two months ago I wrote about the fact that the fencing at Point Reyes National Seashore is dangerous to wildlife. In the article I discussed the fencing guidelines that the fish and wildlife departments of several western states recommend to private property landowners who have elk and other game animals on their land. They recommend that fences be no higher than 40 inches (or 42″ at the very most) and that there be at least 12 (preferably 14) inches clearance between the top two wires. I also discussed the fencing standards used by BLM for cattle and sheep grazing on the Nation’s public lands. BLM’s height standard is only 38 inches, probably because, unlike the state fish and wildlife agencies, BLM owns the land and is therefore free to impose the height standard it feels is best for wildlife. Like the state wildlife agencies, BLM requires that there be 12 inches clearance between the two top wires. I measured 20 fences at the Seashore for that article, including this fence line, and none met the fish and wildlife guidelines and/or BLM standards. The park has fence standards for its own fencing. Incredibly, their fence standards require that fences be 48 inches tall and that there be only 9 inches clearance between the top two wires. For these reasons, and others discussed in my blog two months ago, the park’s standards are about as unfriendly to wildlife as you can get. I find this hard to understand given that the Park Service’s primary statutory duty is to preserve and protect the natural resources of the parks, including the wildlife. Click here to read that article.
Snagging the wire(s) has caused the bull to fall on his elbows. I don’t know if he suffered injuries to his front or rear legs. Barbs can inflict a lot of damage. I have heard reports of other elk in the area with injuries to their hind legs. What usually happens when a deer or elk can’t clear the top wire is that its hind legs get caught between the top wire and the second wire and the animal is trapped and held by the two wires. This is called “scissoring.” In this case the fence post was weak (probably rotten) and broke. For a photo of a deer which has become scissored, click the link above.
Here is a photo of a following bull that cleared the top wire. Note the fence post that appears to have broken at about ground level.
The Park Service should do something about the fencing and do it before more animals are injured or die. Until it does, it seems to me it is ignoring its Organic Act and the Point Reyes National Seashore statute which require it to preserve and protect wildlife. The fencing it builds and the fencing its ranchers build are not preserving and protecting wildlife; they are harming wildlife.