Grizzly Bears, © Jim Chagares

Notes from the Field: Installing Fences in Bear Country

Spring marks the emergence of grizzly and black bears from their winter dens. And when they come out, they come out hungry. Fortunately, Defenders’ Electric Fence Incentive Program, which helps keep bears out of trouble by putting electric fencing around the things that draw bears into conflicts with humans, is already in full swing. The electric fencing program is another way that Defenders is helping individuals, landowners and communities coexist with wildlife. Bear conflicts on private lands are dramatically reduced when electric fencing is put around things that attract bears, like chicken coops, bee hives, fruit trees and small livestock. Human-caused mortality is the number one cause of grizzly deaths in the continental United States, but is also one of the most preventable. That is why programs like our fencing incentive are so critical to conservation and recovery efforts.

Russ Talmo/Defenders of Wil

Russ Talmo stands alongside Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff after completing a much anticipated electric fence.

Last month we installed our first electric fence of the season. Working with staff from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, we built a permanent fence for a landowner in Eureka, Montana who had been experiencing annual conflicts with black and grizzly bears on his hobby farm. This region is just west of Glacier National Park and borders the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, home to the largest population of grizzly bears in the Lower 48. Over the course of two days and variable weather, we managed to install a five-strand, electrified wire fence surrounding a large pig corral and a chicken coop. This particular project, involving a hobby farm in prime grizzly bear habitat, is largely representative of an ever-growing segment of the human population. These are not ranches producing commercial livestock. Hobby farms tend to be private landowners that often have a menagerie of small livestock, livestock feed and other attractants at their residence for personal use.

Russ Talmo/Defenders of Wildlife

Chickens and geese look on, as the newly installed electric fence is activated for the first time.

Based on the level of interest and turnout of help to build this fence, I think it speaks volumes to the significance of this project. Multiple grizzly bears that have learned to find the stored grain used to feed pigs and chickens have been trapped at this location over the years, including one sow and cubs on two separate occasions. Furthermore, several black bears “guilty” of the same offense, were also relocated or killed due to conflicts. This site was a high priority with a long history of human-bear conflicts. Tim Thier, Regional Biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had this to say about the fencing project: “I really think this is going to work and am very hopeful that we have caught our last bear at this place. If so, I will look back when I retire and consider it one of the more significant accomplishments during my career.” We are proud to be a part of this fencing project and many more to come!

Russ Talmo, Rockies & Plains Field Technician






8 Responses to “Notes from the Field: Installing Fences in Bear Country”

  1. Emmanuel Delfosse

    I think it would really be a good thing if you informed Greenpeace about this,or the WWF.

    Did you know they had bear problems in the Pyrenees Mountain régions of France and Spain?

    Locals and farmers are having troubles with them and don’t really know how to cope with them.

    It might be a good thing if you suggested them a couple of these measures to help them and the bear population.

    Like in the United States,when bears get too interested in crops or approach men or farms too closely,they first shoot to keep them away…

    Or shoot to kill them.

    You know,people sometimes are a bit primary,so they sometimes act like this,because they don’t get interested in wildlife,what it brings to people,and its preservation.

    Damn shame.

    People should be more informed:if you can,send information in french,spanish,catalan and basque idioms.

  2. Romola Newport

    Outstanding work, keeping Bears safe from humans is essential.

  3. Donna Glass

    I disagree with fencing for the most part. It usually harms wild animals. People should stop encroaching or, If a landowner must have a fence, let him pay for it and install it. If he wants to shoot wild animals rather than step up and fence his property, then he’ll probably find another excuse to shoot animals even after you build him a fence. Since he’s raising meat animals, then he probably lacks compassion for animals anyway, and doesn’t warrant this type of assistance.

  4. mark

    In case of a bear conflict, the humans should be shipped out.. preferably to some drug gang neighborhood in Detroit or New Jersey.. and forbidden to ever come back or live around animals again.

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