Sunday, 10 May 2015

Dead bears and honey bees

We have a fairly large scale honey industry in our region,
and, we have bears.
This combination is often the cause for conflict between humans and wildlife,
 mostly resulting in raided hives and dead bears.

We have a set of hives about 1km down our road, this hive is located about 50 m from a bear den that has been in use for quite a few years.

Last year a young male bear was regularly seen in the area,
 eating oats after harvesting.

He must have denned in the area.
This spring he went by the hives looking for much needed calories after the hibernation.
Unfortunately, this resulted in him being shot.

I do understand  that the apiaries need to protect their livelihoods,
however I can't help but feel really sad.
Is there perhaps more that could be done to prevent the bear damage,
and the resulting killing of this young bear.

Conflict prevention benefits both the owner of the hives and the bear.
Bears normally get shot only after they have raided the hives,
so the owner has already sustained loss and damage,
before the bear gets shot.

So, what more could have been done to prevent both the loss of the hives and,
 the loss of a bear life?

The hives are situated in a wooded area in very close proximity of a known bear den.
It borders an oat field, an attractant for bears in the fall.
Perhaps, not the most ideal spot to have hives.

These hives were only protected by 3 strands of electric wire.
Electric fencing has been shown to be highly effective in keeping bears from hives,
however they need to be correctly built to be effective.

Bears have thick fur, so crawling under a poorly built E-fence will have little to no effect in deterring the bear.

 For a Electric fence to be effective it really requires more  than 3 widely spaced strands.
It will need at least 6 stands correctly spaced ( 6 inches max between strands).
Correct height.
High Voltage ( at least 6000V)
and excellent grounding ( minimum of three ground rods).

A cheap and easy option would be to use a portable mesh type E-fence (also called sheep electric fence).
This would prevent the bear from simply slipping under/between the strands.

Another, possibility to explore in addition to the E- fence,
would be to rig up a "trip" wire,
that when tripped,
 a radio/air horn would blast on, creating a sound deterrent.
The sound could be of gunshots, crackers, fireworks or human voices.
Something, that would scare the bejeebers out of a bear foraging for food close to the hives.

Combining more than one bear deterrent,
would result in the best possible protection of the hives.

Other possibilities could include using a raised bear proof platform,

  Hammering a bunch of nails through a plank of plywood  placing around the hives, with the nail points sticking up.
Like a bed of nails.
They do this to protect some cabins in Alaska, from being raided by bears.
I have seen boards laid down all around the cabins to prevent bears getting even close to the doors and windows.

bear deterrent Alaska (

This bear board was placed to stop a dumpster diving bear outside a restaurant.

Bear Smart recommends the following additional methods to prevent conflict:
 " Beehives should be located as far as possible from timber and brush providing bears with cover and travel routes. Honey crops should be harvested as soon as possible after the spring, summer and fall nectar flows to reduce the attractiveness of hives to foraging bears, and prevent the loss of the new honey crop in the event of depredation. When possible, apiaries should be moved to new locations if bear activity is detected nearby."

I have also heard anecdotal info, that people who have livestock and bees,
have found their livestock guardian dogs also provide some protection for the hives.

Conflict prevention is really all about keeping:
 attractants for wildlife away or to a minimum,
being thoughtful in placement/location of hives,
adding  exclusion barriers such as Electric fencing, nail boards or raised platforms
  adding some aversion devices in the form of human activity, sounds, LGD
 and  management; removal of honey on time.

So, all in all, there are a number of ways to prevent hives from been raided by bears.
A little more focus perhaps on prevention,
 will ultimately, always be better for the apiary owner and,
 better for the bear.


  1. I agree. Completely! The bear's story is so sad. There's a lot that we can do to prevent these conflicts and it is our RESPONSIBILITY to do them. By the way, I love the pic of the electric fence, it looks like a veritable fortress -- was it taken on your ranch??

  2. Unfortunately, I think a lot of folks take the quick, lazy and dirty way out, rather than planning and implementing ahead of time to hopefully avoid conflict with wildlife. Blessings on your journey Mr. Bear, and I'm sorry.


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