Airport deer skip peanut-butter bait.


Mar 11, 2001
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Airport deer skip peanut-butter bait.

Dabs on fence don't deter them

By Carolyn Starks, Chicago Tribune staff reporter.

Published December 6, 2001

Maybe deer just don't like peanut butter.

Smeared along an electric fence at the Lake in the Hills Airport, peanut butter was supposed to draw deer in for a taste--and a low-voltage shock--that would quickly teach them to keep away from the nearby runway.

But since the fence was installed in October, the deer have jumped the fence, shimmied under it or taken the shock but kept on going.

And according to reports from pilots, the deer have not taken one bite of the peanut butter. They say it hasn't even attracted squirrels, rabbits or birds.

Airport manager Fred Mullard said that although he has never seen a deer eat the peanut butter, he isn't ready to call the fence a failure. He dabs the stuff on the 2,000-foot fence each week.

Mullard believes the fence is working, though not as well as expected.

He does not know why the deer haven't tasted the peanut butter. He has heard jokes about switching brands.

The fence is supposed to be a temporary solution to a longtime problem at the McHenry County airport.

The idea emerged this year after airport officials asked the state Department of Natural Resources for help with their deer problem.

After years of close calls and a few collisions between deer and planes, Mullard decided to install the 30-inch-high electric fence to keep the deer at bay until a permanent one can be built.

Farmers, orchard owners, and state forest preserves have used baited electric fences for decades to keep deer out, with mixed results.

"White-tailed deer are very persistent critters," said Marty Jones, the state's urban deer project manager. "Once they've established a travel pattern, it's pretty hard to break their patterns."

Jones said that either the Lake in the Hills airport is too large an area for the fence to be effective or the shock isn't strong enough.

"Its best function is on really small plots. . . . It's not meant to fence in a massive area," Jones said.

Mullard also said part of the problem is keeping the peanut butter on the fence. Wind and rain can wipe it nearly clean in a few hours, he said.

But he hasn't given up hope.

"Every deer we can keep off the runway is better for both the deer and the pilot, so we will keep it," Mullard said.

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