Safer alternatives to netting for wildlife are needed, as a lot of wildlife gets trapped, strangled or even hanged from conventional netting. Netting is mostly used to deter herons and cats from ponds, or birds and bats from fruit trees. But most netting sold is too flimsy, and the holes are too big. Discarded, it causes harm at landfill and in oceans.
Many people will use netting to protect crops, so here are safer alternatives, many recommended by Aussie wildlife rescuers, who often help trapped animals. Also see wildlife-friendly fencing alternatives.
Protecting Trees from Birds & Bats
Wildlife rescue charities say that ‘wildlife-friendly netting’ is not always safe. They say suitable netting should have mesh size of less than 5mm (0.19685 in). Nothing is 100% safe, but anything larger is not safe. No matter what the label says.
The reason why larger netting is not safe is because wildlife can get trapped in it (grass snakes are in particular danger of getting trapped). Australia’s RSPB says to never use monofilament fishing line as netting, this is dangerous to wildlife. And whatever netting you use, dispose of it securely after use. Wildlife-Friendly Fencing Project & WIRES (an Aussie wildlife rescue charity) both recommend some brands below:
- Vegnet is a fruit bag to cover trees. It’s white (easily seen) and gives just 8% shade (remove bag to save seeds or pollination). It looks like a similar product sold in UK (open sealable sides). Avoid glue bands for trees, as although designed to deter ants & insects, some could die. There’s no need if you use other humane methods.
- DrapeNet offers commercial products for growers. Sold with a 10-year lifespan, this netting has small holes, is effective against hail, protects from the wind and sun, and can be moved. The site does not mention the product being wildlife-friendly, but its items are recommended by bat welfare charities (Hailnet is also recommended by wildlife charities, which can be bought off the roll).
How to Protect Ponds from Herons
Herons are beautiful birds that hunt for fish near marshes. They also eat amphibians, insects, reptiles, worms and small birds. Report any harm, as herons are protected by law.
Herons hunt at dawn and dusk, so you won’t see them often. But even though they live wild, they may see your pond as ‘easy pickings’, and some even use ponds to teach their young how to fish. The perfect solution does not exist. But if you have fish in ponds, you have to accept there is always a risk that herons will eat them.
- Herons are always on alert for predators. So tall plants near ponds may make them stay away, as they would feel vulnerable not having a clear view (if doing this, choose plants safe near pets). Avoid vertical pond sides; a drowning risk for all creatures.
- Solar fountains agitate the water, making fish harder to see. Be sure they are suitable for your fish safety (refer to a care manual).
- ‘Dummy herons’ are not usually effective. Herons tend to hunt together, so will likely ‘join in’ to feed.
- Wildlife charities don’t recommend heron deterrent discs, as they can sometimes harm fish by choking oxygen out of the water. British Hedgehog Society is concerned that hog spikes could get trapped in them. They also collect debris, which leads to pet-toxic blue-green algae. See how to build a garden pond.
- Wildlife charities and RSPCA ask people to put away sports nets (football etc) safely, as these are just as dangerous.