Bear’s front paws (left) make a distinctive track from the rear (right)

Bears can be a serious pest to agricultural land owners, especially to honey producers and in wild blueberry fields. Electric fencing has been proven to be an effective means of bear control. In addition, honey producers have experienced some success in stacking and securing their beehives. Nuisance bears cannot be trapped or killed without a special permit from the Department of Natural Resources. Permits are issued only when other preventative methods have failed. However, general hunting licences are available during bear hunting season(source: Think Farm).

General

In non-productive areas of the farm, the majority of bear/human conflicts result from bears being conditioned to associate food with humans. By preventing them from making that link, damage to structures and property, such as garbage cans, storage areas, barbeques, bird feeders etc., can be avoided. The DNR has some helpful tips regarding home/personal property management to prevent bear damage here.

Corn Producers

Identifying Damage

  • Bears will enter a corn field and consume large quantities of corn within one area.  Look for circular areas of downed stalks, with the ears completely stripped of corn or eaten whole
  • Raccoons are also culprits of damage to corn, and will also pull down stalks and eat corn from the ear (but not the entire ear). Racoons will not, however, create the circular patches of damage characteristic of bears.

Methods

  • Maintain open space around the edge of fields (acts as a deterrent for bears to cross).
  • Avoid attracting bears through other activities, such as barbeques and garbage left outdoors.
  • One of the most effective ways of preventing damage to crops from bears is electric fencing.  Ideally three (or more) strands  should be used, at 15cm, 45cm, and 90 cm in height. Grass must be kept short for the fence to be effective. Tip: laying strips of bacon or peanut butter on the a new fence may attract a bear, and ensure that the bear’s first experience with the fence is negative–hopefully discouraging the bear from trying to cross the fence in the future.

Blueberry Producers

Identifying Damage

  • Look for scat. Bear scat will vary depending on what the bear has eaten.  During fruit season the scat tends to by cow-pie shaped, and contain a significant quantity of seeds from berries and other fruit.

Methods

  • Electric fencing has been demonstrated to be effective at deterring bears. Even temporary fencing that is only put up during the last three or four weeks of ripening before harvest will help prevent damage.
  •  Keep field margins free of cover
  • For electric fences,  ideally three (or more) strands  should be used, at 15cm, 45cm, and 90 cm in height. Grass must be kept short for the fence to be effective.
  • Tip: laying strips of bacon or peanut butter on the a new fence may attract a bear, and ensure that the bear’s first experience with the fence is negative–hopefully discouraging the bear from trying to cross the fence in the future.

Beekeepers

Identifying Damage

  • Broken hives, with debris scattered
  • Honeycombs and larvae have been eaten
  • Other species, such as racoons, will also destroy hives. The damage produced by bears, however,  is much more severe than other species, with debris scattered over a larger distance.

Methods

  • Avoid putting hives in wooded areas or areas where bears frequent (near wild berry patches for example), and keep the immediate area around the hives clear of cover.
  • Electric fencing is also an effective means of controlling bear problems. A good resource from Colorado State Extension about fencing in beehives is here
  • Strapping hives to a pallet with metal strips make it more difficult for bears to destroy hives.

Orchards

Identifying Damage

  • Small trees stripped of branches, or broken limbs at the tops of large trees
  • Claw marks on trees

Methods

  • Clean up fallen fruit, pick all ripe fruit
  • Keep open corridors between tree rows
  • Electric fence- around orchard, specific areas or individual trees
  • For electric fences,  ideally three (or more) strands  should be used, at 15cm, 45cm, and 90 cm in height. Grass must be kept short for the fence to be effective.

Tip: laying strips of bacon or peanut butter on the a new fence may attract a bear, and ensure that the bear’s first experience with the fence is negative–hopefully discouraging the bear from trying to cross the fence in the future.

Livestock

Identifying livestock damage by bears

  • Bears will produce tooth marks on the base of the skull of their prey, as well as wide claw marks. Bears will also drag their kill away from the site, and do not typically eat bones or skin.
  • Coyotes will also bite at the neck, but will not produce the claw marks that distinguish the kill to be as a result of a bear. Unlike bears, coyotes will typically chew bones and feed on internal organs or hindquarters first.

Methods

  • Do not leave carcasses exposed, ensure they are covered (e.g.,buried)  or incinerated
  • If possible, keep livestock indoors at night. This is especially important during breeding season, as both the young and the afterbirth will attract predators. If birthing indoors is not possible, remove the afterbirth from the pasture.

If you have experienced a kill

  • Report to your local DNR office
  • Move livestock to a different pasture
  • Consider using electric fencing bated with bacon so that the bear experiences a shock, associating the shock with the area

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