Managing deer with slash walls

Anyone who tries to regenerate valuable tree species on their woodland faces two challenges: competing vegetation and deer that enjoy young tree seedlings as a tasty treat.

Cornell University’s Cooperative Extension Service developed a novel approach known as “slash walls” to prevent deer from getting access to the seedlings.

Peter Smallidge is an extension forester at Cornell. He says the concept is basically circling the area to be protected with a wall made of big brush piles.

"The wall is built from slash and tops and low-grade wood that is at or near the perimeter. You’re not moving slash from across the site, most of it comes from within 75’-100’ of the wall," says Smallidge. "We integrated this with cutting or brushing all of the understory vegetation, so that’s how we managed the interfering vegetation issue."

The wall is built about ten-to-twenty-feet wide by ten-feet tall and is sufficiently dense to exclude deer. Access gates are put in so vehicles and humans can get inside the perimeter. Many mammal species, except for deer, have been seen on trail cameras going up and over the slash wall. Birds are also hanging out, so he says there is no evidence of a negative impact on wildlife.

Another plus – there’s very little maintenance once the wall is complete.

"We’ve spent very little time, probably a total in four years of two weeks of maintenance. So, ten days total out of four years," he says. "Walls will slump, they slump at about 30% after three years. It varies if you’re using pine versus hardwood, so on average about 8%-10% of height slump per year."