bear blog

Defenders Help Rural Community Coexist With Bears

Defenders of Wildlife’s Alaska representative Theresa Fiorino visited the rural Village of Chignik Lake in early June to help its fishermen put an end to years of conflict with hungry brown bears.

Lured by the smell of tasty smoked salmon, clever bears have been burglarizing the community’s fish smokers for a fast meal. Residents, frustrated with the break-ins, have tried numerous deterrents.

Some of those deterrents include reinforcing structures with tin or wood and scaring the bears with guns or dogs.  Some residents attempted to trick the bears by playing the radio to make them think someone was around. One resident even set up a booby-trap that sprayed a bear in the face with bear spray.

Unfortunately these measures were met with only varying degrees of success: however, they still have reduced the number of bears killed by villagers in attempts to protect their property. A long-term solution was sought after for both the community and the bears and Defenders’ was there to help.

After discussing the conflict with residents, Fiornio, assisted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game regional biologist Jim Woolington, helped the community develop coexistence tools to deal with the issue. Fiornio and Woolington surrounded one resident’s fish smoker with non-lethal electric fencing to keep the bears at bay.

Using the demonstration fence as an example, Defenders will continue working with the remaining community members to secure their smokehouses with electric fencing. Deterring bears from getting into smokers will help residents’ protect their property and reduce future conflict.

While these big bruins may still wander into the area, Defenders aims to ensure they are not rewarded for doing so. By using tools such as electric fencing and other coexistence measures, we can protect human safety and property as well as build tolerance for bears; thus reducing the number killed.