Grizzly bears have started to make a comeback in recent years, repopulating some of their historic range in the lower 48 states. Black bears remain fairly common, with an estimated 600,000 living in at least 40 U.S. states. (Have trouble telling the two bear species apart? Check out the video above!) But some of the bears’ old stomping grounds are now occupied by parking lots and housing developments, and encounters between bears and humans are on the rise.
Close encounters between bears and humans have made headlines around the country this year, from the record numbers of human-grizzly conflicts in Wyoming, to the Washington state councilman hospitalized after an attack by a black bear, to the camper killed by a grizzly bear outside Yellowstone National Park in July.
In some areas, the conflicts may have been prompted by a lack of native foods in the region. In Montanta, native berries such as serviceberry, chokecherry, hawthorn and huckleberry – critical to a bear’s ability to store fat for winter – have been scarce this year.
Meanwhile, grizzly bear populations in the area are on the rise, and humans are moving ever further into bear habitats, dotting formerly open lands with highways, subdivisions, livestock yards and other human constructions. In years such as this, bears begin to widen their search for food. This commonly leads to a summer cabin or community subdivision where green grass (a bear favorite), garbage cans, chicken coops, birdfeeders, pets and livestock abound.
So are these kinds of conflicts between bears and humans inevitable? We’re working to make sure they are not. Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to minimizing bear-human conflicts through proactive projects such as the installation of electric fencing around chicken coops and livestock bone yards, or cost-sharing for bear-resistant garbage containers for local communities. Properly erected electric fencing is proving to be an excellent bear-deterrent. It is being used successfully in grizzly country to protect everything from chicken coops to calving grounds to school yards. Here’s a map showing the locations of some of our bear coexistence projects in the Northern Rockies region.
Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to minimizing bear-human conflicts through proactive projects such as the installation of electric fencing around chicken coops and livestock bone yards, or cost-sharing for bear-resistant garbage containers for local communities.
What You Can Do
If you are living in bear country there are some steps you can take to ensure bears do not come into trouble on your property:
- Store all garbage in a bear-resistant container or secure building until the morning of pickup or until you take it to the local dump.
- Do not hang birdfeeders between March-November. This includes hummingbird feeders. Birds do not need a supplemental food resource in the summer. Try a birdbath or birdhouse instead.
- Pick fruit a week or two before it ripens. Rotting fruit is a major attractant for bears.
- Install electric fencing to keep bears out of calving grounds, sheep bedding grounds, compost piles, gardens and chicken coops
- Store your pets’ food inside. Bring in bowls as soon as your pet is finished eating.
Learn more from our brochure, Living in Bear Country.