The Dreaded Deer Fence

Horticulture, News
 A view of the deer fence.
Even with the heat, the woods
are truly gorgeous.

On July 15, staff horticulturalist Justin Nichols and I went on a trek through the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens woods. Our hike was not simply for the fun of it; we were on a mission to check the deer fence. Now, you may have heard of the deer fence before in fellow horticulture intern Carrington’s blog post. The deer fence is the large black fence that surrounds the property. It is necessary to keep the gardens as beautiful as they are. We couldn’t have a bunch of rogue deer running around now, could we? Starting this adventure, I thought it would be simple because I had an experienced deer-fence walker with me, but I was wrong. I totally underestimated the physical demands this task would require. If you enjoy hiking, this walk would be a blast! Climbing over fallen trees and trekking through swamps was a large part of our adventure.

We started off the journey walking along the path next to the fence. The terrain became increasingly difficult once we were ten minutes in. In the heat today, it felt like we were climbing a mountain. The terrain was uphill and covered in rocks, stumps, and multiple trees that we had to push through. Due to my severe lack of coordination, I must say I was not much help in pointing out problems with the deer fence, as I was too busy making sure I didn’t fall. Luckily I was able to stay on my feet the whole trip ’round! When we did find a problem in the fence, such as its being too low, or ripped, Justin and I had some zip ties and U nails that we could hammer into the trees to help keep the fence up. We didn’t have all the tools necessary to keep the fence up, though, so we had to be innovative in a few areas. We were able to rig up sticks as posts and keep the fence a little higher and throw dead limbs and other objects in places where animals could get through the bottom. Since I had never been out on the walk, I had no idea that we found more problems than normal. We did our best to fix each one.

One of the craziest parts of this hike was that we saw a fawn inside the fence while we were walking. Again I was so busy looking at my feet that I was temporarily terrified when Justin screamed. I believe the deer must have been terrified, too, because it took off running. Poor thing ran straight into the fence in its terror! Although its horrible to say, it was quite entertaining to watch it try to escape us. Finally it decided to squeeze under the fence. It was incredible! The fence was maybe two inches off the ground and it managed to wriggle its way out. If you’ve ever seen a video of a cat going under a door, that is exactly what it reminded me of.

We made sure to hydrate before we left, but the heat was so intense that it didn’t last long. By the end of the journey I was definitely dehydrated, and when we got back to the horticulture building I took my place holding a chair down and eating frozen grapes. It was unbelievable how exhausting simply hiking around in the heat could be. It was hard journey, but fun even; and with Justin there is always something to talk about or laugh at! Even though I was so tired, it was a great learning experience and vital to the success of the garden to make sure we keep those pesky deer out!

-Kristin Neill, Horticulture Intern (July 16, 2013)