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White Tail Deer: Why they Jump – Or Don’t

An adult white tail deer can really jump. In fact, the average white tail deer can jump over an obstacle that is not 5, 7, or 8 feet high but 12 or more feet high– taller than virtually any barrier deer fence. In fact, to the astonishment of deer control experts, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rates white tail deer as being able to jump 15  feet high. But deer rarely jump this high and in fact rarely jump over relatively low deer fencing–for several reasons.

First, why should white tail deer, black tail deer, or any other deer species take the trouble to jump deer fences when they can go through, around, or under a deer fence–which is in fact what they usually do. Second, what goes up must come down. Would you voluntarily jump off a second-story balcony–especially if you might land in a bunch of bushes or didn’t know how soft your landing spot would be? For this same reason, Nature makes white tail deer reluctant to jump high–a reluctance that discourages them from vaulting even ordinary deer fencing at heights that typically range from 6 to 8 feet.

What Deer See

Another reason deer don’t normally jump deer fencing: They have real trouble seeing the deer fence top. Deer see best in the yellow, deep blue and certain ultraviolet portions of the spectrum, and both polypropylene deer fencing and pvc-coated steel hexagrid deer fencing reflect these wavelengths poorly. In addition, deer have limited depth perception. Their eyes are on the sides of their heads (for wrap-around peripheral vision to spot predators), so their binocular vision is sacrificed and their 3-D sense (especially for nearby objects) is weak. Thus, they have difficulty telling where your barely visible deer fence leaves off and the trees or sky begin. And that means they generally won’t try to jump the deer fence, any more than you would try to vault a tennis net at dusk that you could barely see–one that might be 3, 4, or 6 feet high.

Deer Motives

Of course, deer pursued by coyotes might try to jump anything, just as you might jump off the third-story balcony of a burning building. So it is important to understand that your deer fence is a tool to deter deer with limited incentives, and it helps to know what the incentives are. For example, Are there coyotes or dogs in the neighborhood of your deer fence that enjoy chasing deer? Is your new deer fence blocking an established deer path that large numbers of deer habitually use? Or are the deer likely to be starving in winter and desperate for food they can see and smell inside the fence? As we will see, such considerations have a bearing on what sort of deer fence you install and how well you can expect it to perform. For more on this see Deer Fence Installation: Anti-Jumping Insurance)

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