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How to distract bears?

 
Yona Brod
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I want to plant several permaculture gardens around the open expenses of Old Harbor, AK a remote rural village on Kodiak Island. One big problem: bears. Any ideas about how to detract bears in a sustainable and humane way?
 
Roberto pokachinni
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An electric fence is probably the best solution. It's sadly industrial and ugly, but it deters bears in a way that nothing else will with very little ethical or physical harm.
 
Jami McBride
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Roberto is correct, and you can get away with only one line of electric, using solar power to run your line. Make sure you are putting enough juice through that line, at least 1 output joule per mile (or a little less) of single-strand line. Also make sure your grounding is more than adequate for the amount of line your running (3 connected grounding rods in damp ground) should be good enough. These two items (output joules and proper grounding) are what cause electric fencing to 'not work' as intended in situations. With bears I would design on the heavy side just to make sure you don't have property damage from not having enough zap on your line. Shock and Awe is what your going for.

You will want to 'train' your bears to this line - wrap a piece of aluminum foil so it acts like a flag on your electric line, then put a little peanut butter on this small foil-flag. Put a few of these buttered flags along your line so any bear is sure to encounter at least one of them. This is a easy training tool, and will work for other garden pests as well, you only need to adjust the height of your electric line to meet the nose-level of the offending animal. You may want two lines - one bear level and one raccoon level
 
Samantha Langlois
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Location: Whitefish, MT
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I agree with the electric fence suggestion. I use one in NW Montana to keep chickens in griz country. You could check with Defenders of Wildlife's Got Grizzlies program. In Montana they help pay for the cost of electric fencing to keep bears out of compost, chickens, fruit trees, etc. I don't know if they have a program in Alaska. In certain counties in Montana they pay for 1/2 the cost of electric fencing up to $500 and they offer expertise on setting up the right fencing for your situation.

Livestock guardian dogs can be very beneficial too. I've never had one but I've read lots of accounts about how they can help deter bears.

Good Luck!
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Yes, a good 'bear dog' is probably the best deterrent, but it can be traumatic and dangerous for the animals. I should have made that suggestion as well. The dog does not have to be huge to be effective either. My friend has a dog named Zena who is a mid sized mutt with mastiff, German shepherd, and black lab in the mix. My friend has a bio-diesel operation, with LOTS of grease on hand at all times. Zena keeps all the bears at bay, treed way off in the forest, but as she is aging and her replacement is quite small, my friend has set up an electric fence to help out.
 
Steve Funk
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I've been looking into moving to some land that is well into grizzly country (if everything pans out), and have been considering more or less the same problem. I've got some vague ideas floating around in my head that are untested, but might be worth development. They fall into two categories (big caveats at the bottom).

The first involves taking advantage of natural instincts as a deterrent. Many years ago I saw a documentary type show about a shark repellent that was derived from rotting shark corpses. The theory was that the shark would recognize the smell of other sharks decomposing and decide that whatever killed them might still be around to kill it. The demonstration was pretty impressive, a few drops in the water and they turned tail. So, I did a little googling and found a research paper that seemed to indicate you could deter bears by playing the sound of bears fighting at high volume. In theory the bear hears that others are fighting, figures it's wandered onto another bears territory and decides to leave before being attacked. I'd post the paper, but my laptop died a couple of weeks ago, and it's on there. But, some googling would likely find it.

The second involves annoyances. In theory, every animal has a frequency at which sounds are like fingernails down a chalkboard for us. Likewise, there is a frequency of flashing light that can cause nausea and disorientation. There are examples of the sound generating devices for bugs and rodents, and some flashlights feature a "tactical" mode that does the flashing as well. So, in combination with other, similar, devices it may be able to create a "zone of unpleasantness" such that the bears might choose to travel somewhere else.

The big caveat for these is that you're dealing with relatively complex behaviour from a relatively complex creature, so exhaustive testing should probably be done. For example, a worst case scenario of the first category might see the audio insighting a rage in the bear that spurns it to attack. So, testing a good idea.

I hope that helps.
 
Corey Schmidt
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Location: Kachemak Bay, Alaska (usda zone 6, ahs heat zone 1, lat 59 N, coastal, koppen Dfc)
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my first thought was also electric fence, but i did have a friend here with a potato gun who thought that might be the solution to some of the bear deaths. I live on an island where some people keep chickens and occasionally a bear or lynx comes around and starts eating chickens, so they kill the offending animal. My friend demonstrated his potato gun firing about 100 yds on hairspray with a little electric spark clicker and thought it would be enough to ward off and scare off a bear in a nonlethal way under extreme circumstances. of course as mentioned in the above post it could just anger the creature and escalate the situation, especially if you are dealing with brown bears (we have only blacks n the immediate area, but browns not far away). I once lived in a little cabin with lots of woods around and i treed a little black bear myself one time. if i recall right it had been eating currants in the yard and i was afraid if it stayed on the island it would get in trouble so i went outside banging a couple of skillets together and yelling at it. (i felt bad to do it but thought making him/her feel unwelcome was for his/her own good) He/she climbed a tree and later (i presume) swam back to the mainland, but i will never know if he was one of the ones killed over chickens or not... they are so beautiful and mind their own business but still i always get a pounding heart when i see one with no water between us...
 
Hans Quistorff
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Bears are territorial so I think you need to mark your territory in a way that impresses them. Electric fence would do that but if I understand your post, you are planning on scattered plantings at a distance from your zone 0 or 1. So the maintenance and expense of the fencing may not be practical. What might work is Sepp Holzer's recipe
 
Jimbob Williams
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Try a home made pepper spray or dust once they get a good dose they aren't likely to come back for seconds any to soon ! ('');
 
Kim Arnold
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Back when I had chickens, I used "Night Guard" lights around the coop/tractor. I didn't have trouble with anything for quite a while. The charge themselves during the day and flash all night in a way that predators supposedly find confusing.

Eventually there was a pasty, young bear who hung around for days. He eventually did break into the chickens - but through the one side where there was no light. I'm still kicking myself for missing that side.

I won't say they're perfect, but for a structure you want to move they were a great choice for us. We didn't have trouble with coyotes, Bobcats, or anything else, either.
 
Dave Burns
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Location: Zone 5a
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Black Bears love to destroy my beehives
1. Mesh fence - walk right through
2. Barbed wire fence - walk right through
3. Electric Fence - walk right through
4. Electric Fence with a strip of bacon rind attached !! You see the tongue come out, then the bear heads back into the woods at high speed. I count that as success!

Note also that it's worth helping your neighbors also avoid bear problems, because if a bear gets used to having a tasty dinner on compost, chickens, bees etc. anywhere, that trains him to persistently expect the same at your place.
 
Mick Fisch
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When I was growing up in Alaska the local standard was 2 dogs. The dogs don't have to be that big, a medium dog will work. They bark and nip and harass the bear until it leaves. You want two dogs because they will get on opposites sides of the bear and trade nipping at it's hindquarters when it faces the other dog. If you have one dog, sometimes the dog will decide it needs help and come running to you, possibly with an angry bear hot on its heels. Two dogs will work together. They can't really hurt the bear, but they are annoying enough to run a bear off. A small bear they might even tangle with, but Old Harbor will be all big browns. It won't matter though, dogs are to bears what really annoying people are to us, they try to avoid them.

On a semi-related not, in addition to livestock, some bears are attracted by gasoline. I think they huff if.

Do not put pepper spray on things as a bear repellent. It doesn't work. Pepper spray in the bears sensitive eyes and nose are a real deterrent, put on items though, its just a flavoring and bears are like a lot of people and like a little hot sauce.

It takes a really solid structure to keep a determined bear out. They get into hunting cabins (log) pretty regularly. The windows and doors are the weak points.
 
Mary Carson
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Location: New Mexico - Manzano Mts
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We have issues with bears each fall......and with raccoons all year. I'm collecting materials for a "hoop house" - going to use fence pipe, cover with chain link fence. Locking door.
Hope to get to eat my grapes and plums and corn next season. I live in the mountains of New Mexico.
 
Jamie Chevalier
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I lived 15 miles from the nearest road in Southeast Alaska rainforest for over 20 years, and now live in a fairly wild area of northern California. My experience with dogs is that unless they are specially trained and bred for the task, they will often run from a bear...and they will run TO YOU, often with the bear in pursuit. Electric fence is the best on all counts. It works day and night.

Which brings up another aspect of dogs. If they are to be protecting your stuff, they have to be outside, and if they are outside and not tied, they will chase deer, livestock, and anything else that runs. Even if you find this acceptable, the neighbors or the Dept of Fish and Game won't. A dog that runs deer/livestock is shot on sight in most rural areas. So again, unless you are skilled in dog obedience training and have a lot of time and the proper breed, don't get a dog expecting that it will automatically protect your crops chickens, trees, etc.

To keep bears from including your house and garden in their daily round, it is helpful to pee on the boundaries of your yard. It should be male pee and it won't keep them from making an expedition to raid your chickenhouse, smoker, refrigerator, or any other obvious concentration of food, but it will keep them from moving right on in, sleeping in the garden, looking in the windows, and so on. Good luck.

 
Josephine Howland
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Location: White Mountains of New Hampshire zone 5
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We live the forest in the White Mountains of NH and have a terrible black bear problem. One year a bear tore the metal roof right off the chicken coop. We added Nite Guard solor blinking lights which seems to help. The electic femce with foil and bacon did not deter them. For several years a hunter was baiting bears in the forest near us, which added to the problem.
 
Roberto pokachinni
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Note also that it's worth helping your neighbors also avoid bear problems, because if a bear gets used to having a tasty dinner on compost, chickens, bees etc. anywhere, that trains him to persistently expect the same at your place.


Definitely: The more your community is bear aware and making positive steps to deter bears and be proactive instead of reactive to bears then you stand a much better chance. Most often, people with bear problems are reacting to situations that they could have prevented with proactive measures. Bears are creatures of habit. I've lived in wild country and bear habitat for more than 30 years of my 46. They are super smart in their way, but they are creatures of habit. If your yard is part of the habit already, you will have problems that need to be acted on. If your neighbors have a habitual bear problem, you will likely have problems that need to be acted on. If you do not, but suspect that you might have a bear problem in the future, but there isn't a bear problem near you yet, then you are in a very good position to set up a system of deterrence.

The electric fence with foil and bacon did not deter them.


As mentioned by others about problems with dogs, there can be problems with all the 'solutions'. The fence, for instance, must be high enough voltage to piss a bear off. The shock has to be delivered to a tender spot, such as the nose, or tongue. Also, the bears can not have much previous success with penetrating weak electric systems; if he or she understands that the shock is small and temporary, he or she will just blast right though it. Once a measure of success has been repeated, an electric fence is useless.

I'm collecting materials for a "hoop house" - going to use fence pipe, cover with chain link fence. Locking door.


A really hungry bear will tear through steel and concrete to get at food. I know a person, in Rosswood, North of Terrace B.C., who had a goat shed built with 6 inch concrete walls and a steel roof. The Grizzly opened the steel roof, tearing it out of the concrete, like a child opening with a twist up sardine can and ate the goats down to the last in one in. A chain link fence is way easier than a steel roof, and it doesn't have to be a Griz (I've seen cars that were torn apart by a black bear wanting to get inside).

Try a home made pepper spray or dust once they get a good dose they aren't likely to come back for seconds any to soon

DO NOT RELY ON bear spray.
bear spray is a LAST resort,used in self defense in a bear charge. bear spray is a potential taunt. A bear sprayed bear can potentially sneeze and otherwise evacuate his eyes, nose, and mouth, sinus system, in a mucous blast, and then -now really really highly irritated- recommence his or her charge.

Some people will toss cherry bomb type 'Bear Bangers', to scare a bear off. I'm no fan of this system if you are anywhere near other people. If a scared bear is running from something, it is extremely dangerous to other people.

One method that I did not mention, because of the time and expense of making it over a larger area, is a combination electric fence and spike boards.

This was explained to me by some people who had a Wildflower Honey operation who had numerous hives spread out in large scale industrial logging clearcuts. In this system, you would nail large spikes into boards and lay them out on the ground, spikes up, and pinned down with re-bar. The electric fence wire is on the outside, and in order for a bear to get a foot involved in the spikes, he or she must reach with a front foot under and past the wire. Now wait, you say, this is cruel torturous way to deter bears! Not really: The bears always approach new sites and new situations with caution and curiosity and also a certain intelligence. After experiencing a minor shock, a still curious and hungry bear will gingerly reach his or her paw under the electric fence, and touch-only touch-the nails and pull back. The bear will not be stomping a bunch of holes in it's paw. The bear will try this a few times and figure that this is not worth the effort or potential pain. This is similar to a child who gets bit by a squirrel or rabbit by reaching a hand into it's burrow. The small bite is enough, despite the small 'harmless' creature that inflicted it, to deter a repeat visit.

Bears, and living in bear territory demands the homesteader gain the knowledge of their behavior. They should be respected, and even feared a little bit in a healthy way, as they are potentially extremely dangerous. That said, bears are, by-and-large predominantly gentle creatures that do not want to involve themselves with troublesome unpredictable and potentially volatile humans. The best bear deterrent is common sense.
 
C. Letellier
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Location: Greybull WY north central WY zone 4 bordering on 3
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I know absolutely nothing about holding bears with electric fences but I know a bunch about holding problem animals in or out with electric fences.

The most common animal way to get through fences is either to charge the fence and break it or to push another animal through it. When I was 5 or 6 we had a cow that would wait until another animal was walking along the fence and she would charge them knocking them through the fence so she neither got shocked or cut. Later when we had pigs we would have pigs that would take a run at the electric wire and take the hit and break it and go on. The cure for both of these is fairly easy. Add springs to the wire. If you are using standard electric fence wire screen door springs are your friends. Adding a foot or two of stretch to a wire lets it be pushed a long ways sideways without breaking. Usually the spring goes in the wire so it is tensioning the wire directly but some corners it is actually better in the wire that holds the insulator to the post. Pulley set ups with a couple of round corner insulators and some nails and bale twine and a heavy weight are also possible.(springs are so much easier) If you are running barb wire then you simply need bigger springs. For orchards and places where a zig zag fence is possible you can make the fence almost bullet proof by having springs pulling sideways at every post.

In dry ground often the animal won't get enough shock to stop them. A partial cure for this is to string a ground wire around the entire circuit too. At every metal post ground it to the ground. If you are using fiber glass posts you can drill a hole in the post near the base and thread a wire through the post before you drive it.(It will eventually break the post but you can often drive the post a number of times before it happens. By having a ground at nearly every post you reduce the fence failures because of poor grounding. Because of induced voltage in the ground wire you seriously reduce the length of fence your fencer will support doing this. You can reduce this affect by keeping the 2 wires as far apart as possible.

Now you have probably stopped the wire breakers with springs but you can end up with animals that put their heads down charge under the wire and take the few hits they need to get by the wire. Multilayer fences and stair step fences help here. A 2 or 3 layer horizontally means the animal hits multiple fences in the charge. Ideally they are powered by separate fencers because if the first fence fails and the animal smells it has failed they will run into the 2nd hot fence. The runs should be separated by less than the body length of the animal but about as far apart as possible otherwise. We used about a 2/3 rule. So if we were fencing 3 ft long pigs the 2 fences should be about 2 feet apart. We had one pig that 2 layers weren't stopping so we went to stair stepping the wires. The first fence to be hit is the highest and the last fence to be hit is the lowest. The distance and the combination of wires nearly always stopped her. Dual fencers also help if you have an animal that learns to short out the fence. We had a pig that if the feeder got empty enough she would get it rocking till she could roll it around into the fence to short it out. But the dual fence & fencers stopped her. Dual fences are also good against wildlife like deer. For deer the first fence they encounter should be almost invisible and the 2nd you want to call attention to. For the high visibility fence we had terrible long term luck with the white fiberglass electric fence tape but solved most of it by wrapping it with an electric fence wire. The wire supports the tape solving most of the problems with tape.

Next all fencers are not created equal. You will find a rating on miles of fence they are designed to power. Get the biggest one you can afford. There is also a difference in how they deliver the shock. You will find fencers that are rated as safe for use with tape fences. These fencers use high frequency shocks and we found them less effective at stopping problem animals. Had far better luck with fencers rated to burn weeds down. Now some fencers are hotter still. The ones designed to fence buffalo for example. Although the hottest fencer I was every around was one we repaired. The inductor in the hot side of the circuit burned out. So we robbed an inductor from fluorescent light to replace it.

Then be aware that pure snow is an insulator. Never did find a good answer to this one. The best we found was to string a ground wire so the animal trying to walk through or under or over the electric fence would get into it also. They have to walk into both halves of the circuit which takes thought.

A solid fence backing the electric will often deter things to. If the animal has to fight its way through 10 feet of electric fence before it even gets to the solid plain fence it can help. Simple corral poles wouldn't stop a pig but if they had to fight two fences to get there and be shocked while they worked their way under the bottom pole it stopped charging behaviors.

 
Roberto pokachinni
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I was discussing this with my Dad and he mentioned a friend of ours who has a really stout cedar fence-that a bear would have to climb to get in the garden-but the electric line is up the fence and out a bit, so the bear has to touch it, and can't avoid it, while trying to initiate a climb.
 
Cj Sloane
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I also recommend dogs to keep bears away.

Someone killed a bear on our property when we first moved here. Then, for 14 years no signs of a bear while our Golden Retriever was alive. Within a few months of the dog's death, we saw a bear on the driveway.

Dogs on site, even in a paddock, have convinced the bears not to investigate our bee hives.
 
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