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Pinellas rips out fencing that had injured animals

The barbed wire, a foot away from a parallel fence erected by Pinellas County, hurt deer caught between.

By JAMES THORNER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


LAND O'LAKES -- The barbs should no longer butcher Bambi.

After juggling complaints the past week from irate nature lovers, Pinellas County has begun dismantling a barbed-wire fence blamed for mangling deer near the Cross Bar Wellfield in Pasco County.

Earlier this year, Pinellas erected 3 miles of grid-patterned fence parallel to a barbed-wire fence owned by the neighboring 8,000-acre Barthle Brothers Ranch.

Pinellas was concerned about wild hogs infiltrating its property, but deer were the unintended casualties. The resulting one-foot gap between fences forced deer to run a bloody gauntlet, ripping flesh and fur against the barbs.

On Monday, directed by Pinellas commissioners, utilities director Pick Talley cut a deal with the Barthle Brothers.

Talley proposed pulling down the Barthles' 5-year-old barbed-wire while preserving Pinellas' newer fence. By afternoon, a two-man crew had begun yanking out the staples holding the wire to wooden posts.

"We don't want to cause no trouble," said Albert Roller, who manages the 12,000 acres Pinellas owns north of State Road 52 and east of U.S. 41.

The Barthles said Talley's proposal was preferable to the bloodshed that occurred during the past few months, when they found several deer mauled and killed by the double fences.

Although the Barthles lease their land to hunters during deer season, they said the fence injuries were senseless.

"If they would have gone out there and said, "Let's devise a trap to catch animals,' they couldn't have devised a better trap," said Randy Barthle, one of four siblings who run the ranch.

The deer troubles surprised Talley, who said he prides himself on his environmentally conscious stewardship.

Pinellas manages the land as a combination well field, wildlife refuge and agribusiness. Bird watchers flock to the land to see one of the region's only scrub jay refuges.

The county has planted 5,200 acres of pine trees expected to yield more than $20-million worth of timber and pine-needle mulch.

"A lot of people think we have the best county-owned project going in the state," Talley said.

Wild hogs, some escaping from a hunting preserve at the adjacent 4G Ranch, threatened the commercial viability of the pine needle operation, Talley said. That created the need for its own fence to complement the Barthles', which failed to keep out marauding pigs.

The planned removal of the fence brought cheers from local representatives of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and other animal lovers.

"I'll sleep better tonight," said Pinellas retiree Eva Carey, who wept last week at photos of maimed deer published in the newspaper. "I won't have to think of those poor, gentle things suffering."

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