SAVANNAH — Outside the ruins of Georgia’s oldest surviving colonial estate, a wrought iron fence that has stood for a century is getting the sharp points atop its pickets trimmed off after park managers were finding too many deer impaled on the spikes.
Chris Floyd, manager of the Wormsloe Historic Site in Savannah, said he’s found a number of dead deer skewered by the 6-foot fence as they tried to jump over it. The worst cases, he said, are those where the deer are mortally wounded but not dead and have to be shot.
“It’s been going on for a long time,” Floyd told the Savannah Morning News. “It just got to the point where it’s got to stop.”
Wormsloe is the site where Noble Jones built his colonial estate after arriving in Georgia in 1733 with the British colony’s founder, Gen. James Edward Oglethorpe. The tabby ruins are Savannah’s oldest standing structure. The Georgia Department of Natural Resources has managed the site since the state bought it in 1973.
Though much older than Wormsloe’s colonial ruins, the fence was built in about 1913 — old enough to require Floyd to get permission from the state Historic Preservation Division before his staff could start removing the spiked points. The alterations are only removing about an inch from the fence’s height. But it’s a big job. The fence has about 3,200 pickets. Floyd’s staff has been working since October and is only about halfway done.
“We’re trying to proceed cautiously in terms of what we do,” Floyd said. “The first thing is to get the points off. It’s not something that radically alters the aesthetics.”
The historic site staff isn’t just doing it for the deer. There’s an elementary right across Skidaway Road from Wormsloe’s entrance.
Sometimes children arriving for school would see deer impaled on the fence, said Julie Gannam, principal of neighboring Isle of Hope Elementary School.
“One morning there was a deer caught on the fence, and it was gruesome,” Gannam said. “The deer are everywhere out here. One morning a deer had been hit by a car and was in our bus ramp dead. Our PE teacher moved it before the kids arrived.”
Georgia didn’t have many deer when the fence at Wormsloe was built , said David Mixon, the DNR’s coastal region supervisor for game management. The state had deer brought in from Texas and Michigan in the mid-1900s.
While deer can clear fences as high as 8 feet, Mixon said they sometimes stumble too.
“Like people, deer do stupid things,” he said.
“Deer, a lot of the time, jump only hard enough to get across and they drag their back feet,” Mixon said. “That’s fine as long as it’s a fence they can slide over. But with this fence it’s essentially an arrowhead on top.”