Barbed wire versus native animals
Each year hundreds of native animals become entangled in or “hung’ up on barbed wire. The suffering endured by these animals is unimaginable.
All species of native animals are vulnerable to this silent, lifeless predator. Flying Foxes, Sugar Gliders, Squirrel Gliders, Greater Gliders, all of these are found entangled, usually through the flying membranes, the damage done is generally severe, some do not recover and others are in care for extended time. Birds such as Tawny Frogmouths are often found on barbed wire. In most cases they are caught by the wings, many breaking vital bones in a vain attempt to escape.
Many wallabies and possums, be it Ringtails or Mountain Brushtails, are also rescued from barbed wire, generally caught by the legs and all suffer horrific injuries. When an animal is caught, it will struggle in fear and pain; sadly this only serves to further entangle it in the barbs. In many cases the animal is not discovered for some time. Barbs will tear open flying membranes, rip skin and muscles, break wings on birds and legs on wallabies, leaving horrific wounds, which often become fly blown, and all too often prove fatal.
What can you do to prevent this occurrence? If you already have barbed wire fences, the top strand of barbed wire could be replaced with ordinary wire, this would help stop gliders, bats and birds being caught. An alternate method to stop flying animals being caught is to use old garden hose slit down its length, then slid over the top strand of the barbed wire. Strips of cloth or any shiny material, tied at intervals along the middle strand of fencing wire, is another way to help prevent injury by alerting both flying and running animals that the wire is there. The best method of all is simply to get rid of the barbed wire completely. If erecting a new fence please consider the alternatives to barbed wire.
Wire fences used before the invention of the barb consisted of only one strand of wire, which was constantly broken by the weight of cattle pressing against it. Michael Kelly made a significant improvement to wire fencing with an invention that "twisted two wires together to form a cable for barbs—the first of its kind in America," according to Henry D. and Frances T. McCallum, the authors of The Wire That Fenced the West. Known as the "thorny fence," Kelly's double-strand design made the fence stronger, and the painful barbs taught cattle to keep their distance.
Predictably, other inventors sought to improve upon Kelly's designs; among them was Joseph Glidden, a farmer from De Kalb, IL. In 1873 and 1874, patents were issued for various designs to strengthen Kelly's invention, but the recognized winner in this series of improvements was Glidden's simple wire barb locked onto a double-strand wire. Glidden's invention made barbed wire more effective not only because he described a method for locking the barbs in place, but also because he developed the machinery to mass-produce the wire. His invention also survived court challenges from other inventors. Glidden's patent, prevailing in both litigation and sales, was soon known as "the winner." Today, it remains the most familiar style of barbed wire. Glidden's patent, No. 157124, was issued November 24, 1874. Native Americans referred to this wire as "the Devil's rope."
(Source: :”Inventors website”. http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blbarbed_wire.htm)
Wildlife Friendly Fencing (WFF) is a campaign encouraging landowners to manage fencing that is safe and effective for wildlife, people and livestock. www.wildlifefriendlyfencing.com
Thousands of animals die each year in the cruellest of circumstances due to barbed wire. These entanglements often leave members of the public and rescuers distressed due to the severity of the injuries to wildlife. Nocturnal animals such as bats, gliders and owls are particularly susceptible to this hazard and are often entangled when flying towards fruiting trees or dams and creeks close to barbed wire. Flying foxes are the most common victims of barbed wire. Tawny frogmouths are surprisingly common victims too, and just this week we had a crow brought into care from a barbed wire entanglement.
We ask people to modify the fencing adjacent to these ‘hot spots’ by modifying those sections of fence in order to minimise the risk to wildlife. Often this involves relatively short sections of fence, so it’s easy to modify.
Firstly, we ask landowners to consider whether the barbed wire fence is necessary. Sometimes the fence no longer contains livestock so could be removed or replaced with plain wire. If the barbed wire fence is needed, you could cover the top strand in the hot spot zone with polypipe split longitudinally.
Consider replacing the top strand with plain wire, and when planning a new fence, consider whether barbed wire is really necessary.
Our patch of paradise is blessed with many possums and glider species, some endangered. They are common victims of barbed wire, so we ask landowners to plant trees to shorten the gliding distance between trees, no more than 20m apart. Wildlife corridors are critical for wildlife survival.
If you have old wire on the property that no longer has a purpose, please dispose of it and save a few lives in the process. We receive quite a few calls every year for wildlife entangled in piles of disused wire or netting. Our snake handlers sometimes have the task of very slowly and cautiously removing snakes from discarded fencing.
For our carers the most heart wrenching rescues are those where the animal has barbs twisted amongst bone and membrane and it is a difficult process to remove the animal so that no further damage occurs. It is very important that you do not cut the animal in order to save the fence as one could only imagine the pain this would cause (I know it sounds silly but it happens). It is much better for the animal if you contact us before you try to remove the animal as pain killers from the vet are vital. These animals might have been on the wire for many hours, or sometimes days and are usually dehydrated and in severe pain, so do your best to make them as comfortable as possible whilst you await further instructions.
Place a towel over WildLife. this will protect them from crows, for example and the sun.AND call animal rescue A.S.A.P.
- Barbed Wire Action Plan (pdf backup)
- Birds Killed by Fences in Diamantina National Park, Queensland (pdf backup)