Biodiversity benefits from exclusion fence design minus barbwire

A collaborative effort to remove the top barbwire from a wild dog and feral deer fence has been saving the lives of Greater Gliders on a northeast Victorian farm.

Sheep and goat producer James Findlay received assistance from Trust for Nature volunteers to remove the top barbwire from his fence bordering crown land after noticing gliders and possums were dying after becoming entangled in the barbs.

Running a first cross ewe and goat enterprise, James has had lambs maimed and killed by wild dogs and regularly undertakes baiting and trapping as part of the Cheshunt Wild Dog Management Group.

Following bushfire in 2006, he rebuilt a 4km fence with hinge joint and two barb wires.

“In hindsight I shouldn’t have put on the barbwire as I started to notice bits of greater glider fur everywhere and over the last 15 years, a couple of possums a year were caught on the top barb as well as six Greater Gliders in six months,” James said.

A crew sent by Trust for Nature helped remove 4km of barb wire. In the meantime, James received funding from the Rural City of Wangaratta’s Supporting Pest Animal and Weed Control project to erect 3km of new wild dog and deer exclusion fencing (20 per cent landholder contribution).

This project was funded by Communities Combating Pest and Weed Impacts During Drought Program – Biosecurity Management of Pests and Weeds – Round 2 – an Australian Government initiative.

“We put in an eight-strand fence with 1.8m posts, four electric wires and an earth return styled on other local dog fences,” James said.

He has observed the traffic of foxes, wild dogs and deer has reduced markedly since the new fence was erected.

James has installed two Australian Wool Innovation funded motion sensor cameras under the Cheshunt Wild Dog Management Group to monitor wild dog activity and continues to bait and trap for wild dogs and foxes.

“The cameras are installed on selected bait stations so I can see what’s taking the baits.”

The cameras have also captured Greater Gliders, Australia’s largest gliding mammal, jumping from a landing pad on the top wire of the fence into nearby trees. 

“I cut some half inch poly pipe to insulate the two live wires and folded a bit of old shade cloth over them as a landing pad, and secured with bale clips and cable ties,” James said.

James has been sharing his video footage and fencing design with local Landcare members and other landholders interested in enhancing biodiversity.

“I’ve always been fascinated with what wildlife is out there on the place. Bandicoots were common before the 2006 bushfires which almost wiped them out, but I saw one on a monitoring camera in a creek gully.”

The Rural City of Wangaratta conducted an exclusion fencing field day in March with presentations from Dean Paton, Gallagher, and Adam Barker, Waratah, and farmers Scott Swinburne and Matt Roberts speaking on suitable fencing materials, electric fence units, remote control and monitoring, super earth kits and lightning diverters.