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Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Use of electric fences to reduce coppice regrowth damage by muntjac Muntiacus reevesi, Monks Wood National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire, England

Published source details

Cooke A.S. & Lakhani K.H. (1996) Damage to coppice regrowth by muntjac deer Muntiacus reevesi and protection with electric fencing. Biological Conservation, 75, 231-238


In Britain there is concern about habitat damage caused by increasing numbers of (non-native) muntjac deer Muntiacus reevesi. In Monks Wood National Nature Reserve (TL 200800) in Cambridgeshire (southeast England) muntjac by 1985, were responsible for significant damage to coppice regrowth. Trials using electric fences to protect sensitive areas were undertaken.

During 1993, 10 (5-strand) electric fences (enclosing 0.026-0.9 ha; average 0.215 ha) were operated: five erected spring 1992 and dismantled September 1993; and five erected in spring 1993.
The areas fenced in 1993 were observed regularly to determine effectiveness and when coppice damage occurred. By late May 1993, when the maximum height of regrowth exceeded 50 cm, five newly-cut ash Fraxinus excelsior (which produce multiple regrowth stems and is known to be browsed by muntjac) were randomly selected inside each fence. Dung counts were used to assess deer activity within and outside (controls) the fenced areas; for each ash, damage was recorded at 3-week intervals: number of regrowth stems and leading tips browsed; and maximum regrowth height from the ground and maximum shoot length.

There was no relationship between size of fenced area and browsing damage (the largest and smallest areas had most damage). The time at which difference between ash performance (i.e. proportion of regrowth stems browsed, regrowth height and shoot length) in fenced and unfenced areas was most significant was at the end of July. Average coppice damage for the four unfenced controls was 0.73-0.93; and within the fenced areas zero (in two areas) 0.35, 0.64 and 0.95.
Muntjac were observed passing through a fence on 56 occasions: 34 times (61%) between the first and second strands from the ground (about 15 and 40 cm in height); eight times (14%) under the first strand; 10 times (18%) between strands 2 and 3; and four (7%) between strands 3 and 4. No deer was noted reacting as if receiving an electric shock.
Whilst regrowth damage within fenced areas was significantly reduced compared to outside, some fences failed to provide adequate protection. ‘Earthing’ to vegetation reduces fence effectiveness hence checks to ensure that vegetation is not touching wires need to be frequent along vulnerable sections. An extra wire placed between the first and second to block the preferred access height might increase effectiveness. Electrified sheep netting should not be used as this has been known to ensnare muntjac.
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