Published in support of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for black grouse


Research has identified collisions with deer fences as a significant cause of black grouse mortality (Baines & Summers 1997). This creates a dilemma for black grouse conservation, as fencing is often used to exclude grazing animals (particularly deer and livestock) from woodland.

Deer fences
Deer fences should only be erected, maintained or renewed where there is no other viable way to manage deer, and only then after a proper assessment of the risks.

Best practice is to:
1. Remove all redundant fences, especially those within lek ranges.
2. Mark existing fences where continued use proves to be necessary. Orange barrier netting is the only form of marking that is proved to reduce collisions by black grouse, though other methods are being trialled. Recommended marking methods include orange barrier netting, wooden droppers and full or half-height chestnut paling (refer to the FCS website for further details - note that FCS guidance is currently under revision).
3. Fences should not be placed in important feeding habitats, such as bilberry and cotton grass.

The following are examples of marked deer fences at Kinveachy:

Orange barrier netting. Photo: Kenny Kortland, RSPB.

Orange barrier netting. Photo: James Gordon, RSPB.

Fence with paling. Photo: James Gordon, RSPB.

More details on deer and fencing can be downloaded here:

Guidance Note from Forestry Commission Scotland (pdf 60k)

Forest Research Technical Guide (pdf 2255k)

Stock fences
Stock fences also regularly kill black grouse, though rates of collision, although likely to be less than deer fences, have not been quantified. Stock fences have been a common feature of the uplands for more than a century, though their use may have increased because of new forestry plantations and agri-environment schemes. It is strongly recommended that new stock fences around favoured black grouse habitats, such as new native woodlands and grazing exclosures, are positioned clear of flight lines between leks and forest edge and are appropriately marked. Click here to download a leaflet on stock fences, produced by the North Pennines Recovery Project.

Overhead wires
Collisions with overhead wires kill breeding waders and black grouse in the North Pennines, and perhaps elsewhere. This may be a localised problem, but if particular wires are regularly causing a problem, the local electricity distribution company or BT may be able to mark the section with flight 'diverters', to make the cables more visible.

The Scottish Forestry Grant Scheme provides grants to assist with the removal and marking of deer fences in Scotland. Click on the link below for details.