Electric fencing good deterrent for bears

The City of Williams Lake and the Potato House Society hosted an electric fencing workshop Saturday in efforts to keep bears out of attractants such as livestock pens, composts and bee hives. - Ted Hlokoff photo
The City of Williams Lake and the Potato House Society hosted an electric fencing workshop Saturday in efforts to keep bears out of attractants such as livestock pens, composts and bee hives.
— image credit: Ted Hlokoff photo

Effectively deterring bears with electric fencing is all about going for the nose shock, said WildSafeBC’s Gillian Sanders.

“If they get a good nose shock they learn to really respect that sense and they just simply don’t want to enter the protected area.”

Animals gain information from the world with their noses and it’s also a wet and sensitive part of the body, so they learn really well from a nose shock.

The nose is also the leading part of the body so if a bear is approaching, receives a shock on the nose, it will withdraw and back up.

Sanders was in Williams Lake last Saturday presenting an electric fencing workshop to a dozen locals at the Potato House.

“The lowest hot wire has to be eight inches from the ground,” Sanders said, explaining the rest are set above in eight-inch intervals.

She’s now installed more than 95 electric fences for bears and has not seen digging at that eight inch above the ground height.

If someone has had previous digging , before an electric fence goes up,  there’s a way of putting an insulator on a stake down in the dig hole and splicing from the bottom hot wire to fill in the gap.

In the Cariboo where it’s drier, people may need to alternate hot and cold wires to ensure a good shock, with the bottom and top most wires being hottest to prevent digging under or climbing over.

“You will need a good ground on your fence, and an electric fence energizer capable of a minimum of 6,000 volts or 0.7 joules to deter bears” she added.

Sanders began using electric fencing more than 15 years ago at her Meadow Creek farm near Kaslo to protect her own bee hives and chickens.

“I started helping the Conservation Officer Service by installing electric fencing at various locations to prevent grizzly bear/livestock conflicts, and set up in other situations where Grizzly bears were coming in in 2007.”

She also helped set up electric fencing throughout the Kootenays and in the Bella Coola area.

When it’s installed and maintained properly, electric fencing is effective to protect chickens and other poultry, beehives, goats, sheep, pigs, calves, fruit trees, and other attractants from for both black and grizzly bears.

The city of Williams Lake along with the Potato House Society decided to host the workshop because in January the city legalized the raising of bees and chickens within city limits.

City planner Chris Hutton said so far one person has applied through the city hall to raise bees, but no one has applied to raise hens.

“We had a mix of ranchers and beekeepers interested in fencing on a smaller scale attend the workshop,” Hutton said.

The information Sanders provided will help ensure there aren’t wildlife conflicts with bees and hens in the city, which are huge attractants to bears, he added.

If people are looking at raising bees and hens, Hutton encouraged them to contact the city.

“You need to come in and do the set up. A bylaw officer will come out and inspect it and make sure the electrical fencing is suitable,” he said.


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