The Bears and the Bees

It has been several years since bears first came through our yard, knocking down the birdfeeders and leaving unmistakably bearlike deposits to corroborate the neighbors’ sightings: a mother and 2 cubs. The beehives remained untouched so we remained unconcerned, even though we should have known better.

As summers passed and nothing else happened, we stayed (relatively) unconcerned, even though Dan right down the road reported several ursine visits that played hell with his hives.

This year, the Dan reports were scary: a mom and cubs and a singleton, presumably male. In the yard. In the hives. On his porch.

The view through Dan's sunroom window

Dan Connors

View through Dan’s sunroom window

When he chased the solo in his car, lights flashing and horn honking, it retreated to the edge of the woods. When he backed up it emerged, more or less thumbing its snout.

 black bear in the distance

Dan Connors 

And Then it came for us

As Bill wrote to a friend on the 6th of May:

“This morning we awoke to find our beehives and bird feeders all torn asunder.  I had just spent $170 for 2 packages of new bees and they had just released the queens and were just getting settled in their new homes when this happened.

I spent the day rebuilding the hives and installing an electric fence around the hives.  If you hang some bacon on the wires, so we hear, the bears wrap their tongue and lips around it and get a good jolt.. We are eagerly awaiting their shocking bellows.

A mother and two cubs and another solo have been raising havoc in the neighborhood.  DEC said that, since the bees are livestock, I can shoot the bears.  They will give me a permit for and provide me with, rubber buckshot if I wish.  They would also like to come and grab these animals so for to give them a collar…  Once they have good data to justify a hunting season they will allow hunting for them in this county.

In 1990 there were @ 400 bears in the Catskills (across the river). By 2005 the population had grown to 4,000 to 5,000.  @ 500 were taken there last fall….” 

 So far Bill’s fence has not been challenged – or at least we have heard no bellows and the bacon appears undisturbed. (More points for crow smarts? They are expert compost-pickers, ever alert for a bit of protein, but they haven’t come near those wires, even though they should be immune.)

Here are the fence details Bill sent to Dan, should you wish to build a solar powered electric bear deterrent around anything:

“ I went ahead with the more expensive unit (Zareba SP10). It also happened to be just about whatCornell and Bee Culture (via Cornell apiarist) recommend. It puts out just about 5,000 volts and 0.17 joules.

It is good to see it snapping sparks for @ 3/16 inch over the raindrops!!! 

I strung my wires alternating hot (+) and ground (-) with the lowest wire 6″ above the ground and the top wire ground (-) for lightning protection.   Since I used steel posts the ground wires are wrapped directly onto the posts.  I used 12 gauge copper jump wire to connect the hot wires as well as for the lead from the controller. I suspect I could make a slight improvement if I grounded the unit to the steel posts as well as the usual ground rods.


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  • I live surrounded by Taconic State Park land, which means campers not far away and dumpsters for park/camp debris and…guess what?…bear heaven. Now that this area is not so rural but almost suburban in spots, it’s like a deli counter for these astonishing animals, and come visit they do. Come for the bird feeders (which I abandoned 6 or 7 years ago because of bears), come for the trash (which I cannot put out the night before pickup, except in dead winter), come for stuff in cars and anything else that smells or looks good.
    So I have a 7-foot, heavy-gauge metal fence like a nursery or tree farm would, to shut out deer and also bear, and I shut the gates tight each night, and just hope nobody figures it out. Nobody large and furry, I mean.

  • leslie Said,

    Hi Margaret – so glad to see you here!

    Is the serious fence all ’round your property? We finally ended up completely surrounding ourselves with 7 foot black plastic deer netting, which seems to work pretty well against THEM, but it obviously wouldn’t bother a bear.

    And shutting the gates across both ends of the circular driveway each night (multiple times if we go out) is driving us slightly batty. Do you have electronic controls?

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