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If you’re a gardener, homesteader, or someone who takes pride in their lawn, the last thing you want is unwelcome animal guests entering and trashing the place. Many of us rely on fences to keep most pests out, but is your fence high enough to keep hungry deer out? How high can deer jump over a fence?
With enough run-up, most deer can jump roughly 8ft into the air; however, some species can jump almost 12ft vertically. Although deer can jump high, they usually don’t unless they have a dire need. The type of deer and several other factors determines its maximum jumping height.
Deer generally jump over fences for particular reasons, and while they don’t frequently jump over higher fences, they can. Below we’ll investigate how high your fence should be to prevent deer from jumping over it; which deer jump the highest; can deer jump high from a standstill; and how can deer jump so high?
In This Guide:
How High Can Deer Jump?
When determining how high deer jump, we must remember that the term “deer” is a broad name for 43 species of similar-looking animals belonging to the Cervidae family, which naturally occur everywhere, aside from Antarctica and Australia.
The average (and maximum) height a deer jumps depends significantly on the type (or species) of deer in question. Some deer species jump higher than others.
On the North American continent, there are five deer species and two subspecies:
|Caribou (Rangifer tarandus)
|4 to 5ft
|Males: 350 to 400lbs
Females: 175 to 225lbs
|Alaska and Canada
|Between 6 and 10ft
|Elk (Cervus elaphus)
|Up to 5.5ft
|Males: 700 to 1200lbs
Females: 500 to 600lbs
|Northern California to Canada (different subspecies)
|Moose (Alces alces)
|5 to 6.5ft
|Males: up to 1400lbs
Females: up to 1300lbs
|Utah, along the Rockies, Eastern USA, Canada, and Alaska
|Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus)
|3 to 3.5ft
|130 to 280lbs
|The Rocky mountains
|Up to 12ft
|Black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus columbianus)
|60 to 220lbs
|Alaska to northern California
|Average of 8ft
|Sitka black-tailed deer (Odocoileus hemionus sitkensis)
|2.25 to 3.5ft
|80 to 120lbs
|British Columbia to Alaska
|Average of 8ft
|White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus)
|1.7 to 3.9ft
|100 to 150lbs
|Southern Canada to South America
|Roughly 8ft, but up to 12ft.
From the table above, you’ll notice that on average, deer jump roughly 8ft. Some jump higher if the situation calls for it.
How High Should a Fence Be to Keep Deer Out?
Most deer can easily clear a 6ft fence (according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife). However, they won’t jump this high unless they have a dire need (e.g., something is chasing them, they smell a potential mate, or there is a high-value food source).
While deer don’t usually jump over 6 ft fences, many authorities recommend a minimum fence height of 7 to 8ft.
Since most deer won’t jump beyond 6-7 feet to reach your garden produce, a 7.5-feet fence is considered an optimum. If you want to err on the safe side, 8 feet tall fence will make your garden nearly completely deer-proof.
I say “nearly” because jumping is not the only way a deer will try to conquer a fence – it’s their last resort.
First, they will try walking around it and then digging under it (yes, those pointy curious snouts of theirs). That is why, besides proper height, it is essential for your deer fence to be properly secured in the ground and to be an all-around fence.
Why You May Need a Higher Fence
The will to jump primarily depends on the deer’s position, situation, and motivation.
For example, a deer that is in danger and can’t clearly see what’s behind the fence will never jump more than 6 or 7 feet, and very rarely 8 feet – especially from a still point.
On the other hand, if chased by predators, hunters, or running from a fire, deer may go for crazier jumps to save their skin. That is when 12 or even 15-feet jumps become possible- especially if the deer is already running.
However, the deer will never try those really high, risky jumps to get to your lettuce or strawberries. That is why, luckily, you won’t need a 15-feet wall to protect them from deer nibbles.
Tips for Choosing Your Fence Height
The ideal fence height depends on several factors:
- The type of deer. Different deer have different jumping limits. If you have mule or white-tailed deer, you’ll want an 8ft fence to be safe.
- The age and physical ability of the deer. Although there are height differences between species, there are also differences between individuals. A healthy adult deer can jump higher than a younger or older animal or an injured one.
- The surrounding landscape. Is there a slope or a dip surrounding the fence? Is there space for a “run up”? The surrounding areas can either help or hinder a deer’s jumping.
- The type of fence. If you use an electric fence and deer get zapped, the deer may think twice before jumping over it. Deer are more likely to go over a fence if they can see through it.
- The food that is available to deer on either side of the fence. If there is poor grazing on the deer’s side of the fence (especially during a drought), the deer might jump over the fence to reach the delicious grass you’ve worked so hard to grow.
- What predators are in the area? Sometimes the best motivator to do “great things” is pain/fear of death. If a cougar or wolf chases a deer, it stands to reason that a fence is the least of its concerns.
Answering these variables will help you determine how high your fence should be to prevent deer from entering your property.
Can a Deer Jump a 6-Foot Fence?
In theory, deer can jump over a 6-foot fence – although they won’t be particularly crazy about doing it.
However, if, for any reason, a 6-foot fence is the highest you can install, there are ways to make it look more impervious to deer. Despite their big bright eyes, they have poor daytime vision – and you can use that against them.
- If deer cannot see what’s on the other side of the fence, they are less likely to jump. Putting something over the fence to make it non-transparent can solve the issue.
- Putting the fence at a certain angle can make it look more challenging to conquer—slant posts at a 45-degree angle outwardly. However, remember that this can make the fence very vulnerable to heavy snow and other potential accidents.
- Installing two 4 to 5 feet tall fences 4 to 5 feet apart is also an efficient and more weather-proof solution.
Will Deer Jump Electric Fence?
There is a debate about whether or not an electric fence is an appropriate deer deterrence.
In theory, it is logical to assume that a gadget that can cause pain to an animal upon contact will keep that animal away (especially a clever mammal).
However, there are two downsides.
First of all, you are causing pain to the animal, likely without any long-term learning gain. Yes, one deer may learn to stay away, but another one will come.
It is completely different from when you have a herd of domestic animals you’re trying to keep in. They will learn and remember because it’s always the same animals, and it’s their home. Deer come and go and may forget what exactly has happened to them after a while.
So it’s not just about the deer – it is highly questionable if electric fences are a viable deterrent for any wild animal.
Secondly, an electric fence is easily damaged, with wires torn, if an animal runs into it. Although it is not too complicated, it is still harder to fix than a regular fence.
Will Barbed Wire Keep Deer Out?
Deer cannot grasp the concept of barbed wire. They don’t have the best eyesight, and the look of a barbed fence does not deter them.
That means if a deer decides to jump the obstacle, it can only get mutilated when it hits the fence (which we don’t want, right?) – but will not get the idea it shouldn’t jump because of the scary-looking, dangerous fencing.
In short – do not install barbed wire to keep the deer out. It will not discourage them, but they can and will get hurt.
Why Do Deer Jump So High?
There’s no doubt that deer are one of the world’s top animal athletes. Just look at those things – their long legs and bodies, with lean but very muscular overall structure. Born champions!
One of the athletic disciplines that deer could compete in is most certainly the high jump.
Deer are known to jump fences. And tall fences.
When deer jump fences, they jump with intention.
And the intention usually is to come for your tasty, precious garden produce.
Cute as they are, deer are well-known garden criminals – nibbling on all the soft and juicy foliage, fruit, and bark. Yes, bark – they are notorious for stripping it from young trees, especially fruit trees – creating irreparable damage that can kill the young plant.
So what can be done to keep the deer out without hurting them?
Fencing is the most straightforward method to do just that.
However, not all fences are made equal.
Understanding the Deer Jump
There are several reasons why deer may be motivated to jump.
- Running away from predators. Obviously, since the deer is running for its life here, this is the situation when the highest and riskiest jumps occur.
- Getting to a mate. Deer have a very high mating drive and will stop at nothing to get to a potential partner once they set their eyes on her.
- Reaching the nom-noms. Last but not least, the most common reason for deer jumping fences. At the same time, it is the most undesirable behavior of all three from the human point of view.
Keep in mind that a high jump is always a risky operation. No experienced animal with good survival skills will ever try to jump a tall fence just for the fun of it or without a darn good reason.
The point of deer protection is to demonstrate to that deer that making the jump is just not worth it.
Deer have powerful legs that give them the burst of speed they need to escape predators like cougars, wolves, bears, and even alligators. With these powerful legs, deer run at up to 40mph speeds.
Deer also need powerful muscles to propel themselves through thick snow, rocky terrain, and other hazardous terrains.
These muscles allow deer to jump incredible distances and heights.
Jumping benefits a deer in several ways:
- They can use a well-timed jump to get away from predators.
- Jumping causes predators to attack “too early,” which allows deer to escape.
- Jumping over obstacles is important in wooded areas and areas with ravines.
- Jumping shows potential mates that you are healthy, fit, and have great genetics.
By taking a run-up, deer create enough momentum to carry them further and higher.
Deer Jump FAQs
What Is the Highest a Deer Has Jumped?
Some sources claim a mule deer can jump up to 15ft (in height). While this accuracy is open for debate, according to PBS.org, white-tailed deer can jump up to 10ft (and other sources claim up to 12ft).
How High Can Deer Jump Without Running?
While their run-up is impressive, mule deer (and most others) only jump around 3ft from a standing position.
White-tailed deer can clear heights of roughly 6ft from a standstill.
Can Deer Jump an 8 ft Fence?
It is extremely unlikely that a deer will try to jump over an 8ft fence. Under normal circumstances, they would not consider it. However, if a predator gives chase, they might attempt the jump.
If you live in an area with lots of deer, an 8ft fence should keep your garden safe 99% of the time.
Can Deer Jump a 7 ft Fence?
Although some deer can jump as high as 10ft, a 7ft fence is a suitable deterrent. Deer sense that 7ft is considerably higher than they are and usually don’t attempt the jump.
Can Deer Jump a 6 ft Fence?
Deer could jump over a 6ft fence. However, it is relatively unlikely they will attempt it unless they are chased or the food is better on the other side.
Will a 5 ft Fence Keep Deer Out?
A 5ft fence is seldom high enough, as most deer easily clear this height. 5 ft fences might restrict caribou until their need outweighs the risk of getting caught.
How High Can Elk Jump?
Elk can usually jump about 8 feet, meaning that the fence that works for whitetail deer can will also work if you’re worried about elk.
How High Can White Tail Deer Jump?
The white tail or white-tailed deer – or simply a whitetail – is the most common deer species in the US. So, 6-8 feet on average from a still point, 12 feet as a maximum with a running start, and 15 feet as a possible maximum.
To Jump to a Conclusion
You’ve probably figured this out for yourself by now anyways, but just in case – deer will jump fences if they feel it is worth the effort. Opportunistic as any other mammal, they will try to conquer shorter barriers to get to your delicious veggies, fruits, and even young fruit trees.
Installing a 7.5 to 8-foot tall fence will permanently keep all kinds of deer away from your goodies. Combining 4 to 5-foot fences or slanting a 6-foot fence at a 45-degree angle can also work.
Remember that deer don’t have bad intentions – they’re simply curious and want to eat something delicious, like all of us.
However, left to their own devices with no means of controlling their movement, those cute Bambies can cause serious damage. Thus, keeping them out with a proper fence means that you’ll be able to enjoy them without the damage.