Please Don't Drown Wildlife, Build an Escape mechnisim in all open water tanks


Staff member
Rescue Elk Won't always be there
Wildlife Escape Ramps for Livestock Watering Troughs

Watering troughs installed for livestock are often used by a variety of wildlife, especially during the summer. Troughs generally benefit wildlife but can be deadly for animals that get in but can’t get out. Many wildlife species are known to accidentally drown in stock tanks that do not have adequate escape ramps. The good news is that effective wildlife escape structures are easy and inexpensive to build and can virtually eliminate wildlife mortality in water troughs. Properly designed and installed,these structures also improve livestock health by maintaining clean water that’s uncontaminated by drowned animals.


EscapeRamp.pngSeveral basic principles should guide the design and installation of all wildlife escape ramps.

The key design component is to provide a ramp with “holes”, which touches the sides of the stock tank. This makes it easier for the trapped animal to find the ramp. Designs that do not provide this, result in the trapped animal swimming along the perimeter of the tank, passing underneath the ramp, until exhausted and eventually drowning.

An effective escape ramp should:

  • extend down into the water and meet the inside wall of the trough so animals swimming along the perimeter will find the ramp, rather than becoming trapped behind or beneath it or missing it entirely
  • Reach to the bottom of the trough, so it will be effective even if water levels drop sharply;
  • Be firmly secured to the trough rim so it will not be knocked loose by livestock or other animals;
  • Be built of grippable, long-lasting materials,such as painted or coated metal grating, roughened fiberglass, concrete,rock and mortar or high strength plastic composites;
  • Have a slope no steeper than 45 degrees so animals can climb out without slipping back into the water
  • Be located to cause minimal interference with livestock

Wildlife Escape Ramp Design

One of the most economical and easily constructed wildlife escape structures is made of expanded-metal grating, which is especially well suited to round metal troughs
that are no more than four feet deep. This design is somewhat diamond shaped; the front ramp is 4.5” wide and 28" long, and will touch the bottom of a 24” deep stock tank.

  • The wings are bent down to a 45 ̊ angle, and designed to touch the vertical wall of the stock tank.
  • The top hook can be bent around the rim of the stock tank (metal or tire tank).
  • The ramp is constructed of 11 or 13 gauge expanded metal with 1/2” holes for the ladder effect.
  • They can be cut out with a cutting torch, hand grinder or have the supplier pre-cut with a shear. Shearing often leaves a very sharp edge that needs to be dulled prior to bending into a ramp shape.
  • One 4’x8’ sheet of expanded metal will yield 8 ladders that fit 24” deep troughs.
  • After cutting the design out,the metal is bent with a metal brake or clamping to a sturdy bench to make the sloped side or “wings” for the ramp.
  • Be sure to keep the wing slope somewhat consistent as varying angles will make the ladders difficult to stack and transport.
  • After bending the wings, bend one triangle corner in a half-circle to fit the trough rim (see diagram). Escape structures must be firmly attached to the trough rim.
  • A metal-tapping screw and washer is simple and effective, or a bracket with a bolt and wing nut can be made or purchased to allow easier removal for trough maintenance.
  • The other triangle corner is bent in the opposite direction to rest flat on the bottom of the trough.
  • The ladders should be painted or dipped with a neutral color farm implement paint to prevent rusting. Be sure that paint is non-toxic after drying.
  • The design can also be modified for rubber tire tanks by rounding the outer edge of the “wings”


Staff member
I arrived at the Ranch 2 years ago to find this tragic sight in a rain barrel that another contractor had set up without much though about the scarcity of water and who might find it appealing. Worse still the trees they were attempting to irrigate died because they used a a soaker hose that clogged with sediment rather quickly. It was really a sad site
View attachment 6410


Staff member
That is less than fool proof to put it nicely. Thirsty animals will not be impeded by a fence. It's not to hard to add a ramp.