Elk-Proof Fence for Yard and Garden

This double-fence design keeps elk out of yards and gardens. It’s simple, well designed, environmentally friendly, long-lasting, and attractive. Most elk fencing, used in states like Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and throughout the Southwest, measures 7-8 feet tall.

Past experience stipulated that “going to greater heights” was the best way to elk- and deer-proof an area. This is the recommended choice to protect highway frontage, pastures, or acreage. But this fencing can be expensive, difficult to install, time-consuming, and may not be aesthetically appealing to homeowners.

Image by Pixabay

Elk Proof with Double Fence

There is another fence design that is simple, well designed, environmentally friendly, long-lasting, and attractive. It is a fencing option that offers another path toward elk proofing your precious landscaping and gardens.

It is called double fencing. It is not taller fencing, but smarter fencing. Basically, it consists of two fences – 4 feet tall and 4 feet apart.

When my husband and I attempted to create a garden for our family, we gained plenty of wildlife experiences but sadly no flowers or vegetables.

The rabbits, gophers, and especially deer and elk destroyed the plants before they ripened. Sometimes the elk would just walk around in the garden, never eating anything but trampling everything.

Our first attempt at garden fencing was a 4-foot tall vintage, looped-wire design. It was beautiful, but useless when it came to elk. Our bedroom overlooked the flower and vegetable garden, so we kept our window slightly ajar and listened for the invaders throughout the night.

Using this technique, we harvested plenty of sleep deprivation and gained an education into the nocturnal habits of Rocky Mountain elk.

Watching these large, horse-sized creatures try to enter the garden always followed a precise, well-learned process and was usually instigated by cow (female) elk. Below are the methods they use:

1. Size up the fence

First the elk push against the fence. This tells the elk how tall and how sturdy the fence is built. Elk prefers to enter a garden or yard by simply muscling their way into the structure. It’s safer for them and they aren’t as likely to get tangled in wire or fencing material. If the fence is not extremely strong (which many are not), this is the fastest way for elk to get to the food.

2. Jump the fence

If the elk are unsuccessful at pushing down a fence, they then attempt to jump. The jump is usually easy for them, even at heights of 6 feet or more. Watching them jump a fence looks quite effortless. In reality, they jump only after careful consideration and sizing up the height and width, or if they have jumped the fence in the past.

Image by Edward Taylor

3. Repeat the process

Each night, the elk would start all over – pushing, bumping, leaning, and then jumping into the garden. They quickly learned to enter the forbidden area. The elk would enter and exit the garden on the same side, always away from the house.

Think Outside the Fence

After watching the elk purge our garden night after night, we decided to add another fence outside of the original garden fence. We made the fence 4 feet away from the first one, made it out of juniper poles, and about the same height – 4 feet. The results were immediate and unfailing. We have only had one elk in the garden in five years (we left the gate open).

Size Matters

Elk does not like being restrained in small spaces. They will enter a small area if they can quickly escape. But as prey animals, if they cannot flee, they do not feel safe. This game animal behavior is the basis for the double-fence design.

  1. A double-fence, the elk-free area should always include two fences.
  2. Install the 48” – high inside fence first. This fence works best if it is made of wire and covers an area about 25 feet square (25’ x 25’ x 25’ x 25’). This size works well when purchasing a 100-foot roll of fencing. Remember to plan ahead for a gate and leave tops of posts up to 72” tall. Tall posts allow spaces for birdhouses and another garden décor.
  3. Measure 4 feet from the inside fence, and then install the outside fence. (We confirmed this measurement using our horse as a model, standing her next to the inside fence. Since 4 feet was tight for her, we used these dimensions for our fence separation).
  4. Use split cedar, three-rail, or wooden slats for the outside fence. This fence should be 48” tall. The tops of posts should be set at 50” high and at about 28” deep. The sturdiness of the posts is crucial. Elk will not jump into the alleyway that is created between the two fences and therefore do not get into your garden.
  5. Use the alleyway to grow native plants, annuals, and plants that deer and elk do not eat. We have successfully grown marigolds, cosmos, rhubarb, and beans between the two fences.
  6. Note: If each fence is a different style or type, the elk pays better attention to the fences, viewing them as two instead of one.

Popular Wire Fence for Gardeners

A vintage-style, double-looped garden wire is once again becoming popular. Gardeners are re-stretching the old wire and buying reproduction wire from new manufacturers. The double-loop design can be important as the bottom half of the wire is smaller and will discourage rabbits and larger rodents. If you wish to try this wire, there are various sources and manufacturers, including HW brand wire and American Fence and Supply.


  • “New Ornamental Wire Fence,” ARusticGarden.com.
Elk-Proof Fence for Yard and Garden