Birds and other wildlife can cost a vineyard or orchard thousands of dollars in fruit loss. Visual and noise devices can keep animals out, but wildlife do become habituated to them and the continual noise can create annoyed neighbors. Protecting fruit with netting is another option,
One of the main risks with letting nets pool on the ground comes from rattlesnakes. As they hunt for prey, they may slither over the nets and, as snakes cannot move backwards, can become severely tangled. For obvious reasons, an entangled rattlesnake is very dangerous and it is a lose-lose situation. There is noone readily available in our area who can detangle a rattlesnake, and killing this protected species is illegal and comes with large fines, so avoiding the situation entirely is paramount.
Loose netting can also present a hazard to birds of prey like hawks, owls, and falcons as they hunt in the vineyard. If they get their wings or talons caught, they can panic and tear large holes in the netting or become aggressive towards anyone attempting to disentangle them. Disentangling raptors must be done by professionals and often involves making large cuts or holes in the nets.
To reduce the risk of wildlife conflict when using nets, secure them 6-8 inches off the ground and pull them lightly taut around the vines. Having nets off the ground eliminates rattlesnake conflict, and pulling them taut makes it more likely a hawk or owl could untangle itself. This does add time to installation but helps insure against spending even more time (and money!) fixing torn nets or dealing with wildlife conflict. Securing nets off the ground can also help extend their lifespan, as it can reduce overall wear that comes from snagging on sticks and rocks on the ground.
As an alternative to loose drape netting, side panel or envelope netting doesn't touch the ground at all and is designed to be installed tighter to the vines. For more information on wildlife-friendly farming practices, visit www.osstewardship.ca/agriculture .