Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bears are a Problem!

Bears. This seems to be the time for them from what we can tell. Last year we didn't see a single bear on our property, but this year we have seen them many a time. I'm now starting to see potential correlation between bear visits and lack of weight gain for the day. 
So far we haven't been able to get a photo of the bears that have been coming up to the house, mostly because as soon as we see them I start trying to scare them away. So far we have had at least three separate bears try to come up on the rabbit hutches. The first one was a big bear, from our estimates and talking to people who actually know something about bears probably 500 lbs or there about. That one was scared off eventually by banging pots and pans, and shooting near it to scare it with the noise.

Since then we have had 2 other distinct visitors. One that the dogs scared off while I wasn't home, and one that has been persistent in the extreme. The one that has been persistent is from what we can tell from descriptions and reading a yearling. Probably around 200 lbs. Relatively small for a bear. So far we have been relying on Rico to alert us that the bear is there. When he alerts us, I leash him, and charge out side yelling at the bear in my loudest projecting voice, with Rico barking and charging after the bear. Once it starts to run I run off after it with Rico leading the way to try to keep the bear running.

This method is clearly less effective than we might like. We have been trying to follow everything on the Mass. Wildlife recommendations for how to deal with black bears. At this point we are trying to think of anything we can do to further discourage this bear that has never once gotten at our trash, we haven't left food outside, it has gotten nothing from us even once. My biggest concern at this point is the rabbits because we can't bring them inside, and while it hasn't gotten at them yet, if it decides to, my hutches can't hold up to an attack by a bear.

Right now the ideas that are up for consideration are as follows.

Keep an air horn by the door. When the bear comes up, crack the door and blast the air horn.
     * Pros: Will almost certainly scare the bear the first time.
                 Completely non lethal
                 %100 legal, and usable by anyone in the house
     * Cons: Bears are smart, it will figure out that this new thing won't hurt it damn fast.
                  It will probably scare the rabbits even more than it will scare the bear.
                  Can run out fairly unexpectedly which is a bad thing.
                  Must be there to enact.

Acquire OC Spray (Mace). When the bear comes up mace it.
     * Pros: It will cause the bear temporary pain that it will associate with the residence.
                 Non lethal (not sure how sensitive bears are to it?).
                 Should cause longer term aversion due to the continuing nature of the pain.
     *Cons: I don't know if it will just make some bears angry the way it does with people. I'd hope not given                                 that Bear Spray is a commercially sold item. 
                 Can run out quickly.
                 Must be there to enact.

Keep doing what we are doing.
     *Pros: It's free.
                So far it's working
                Rico enjoys it.
     * Cons: It doesn't have long term deterrent effects.
                 Very dangerous if it doesn't work.
                 I must be there to enact it.

Electrical fence around the rabbits and porch.
       * Pros: Works 24/7
                   Can have long term deterrent effect if implemented properly.
                   Has other applications such as raccoon and fisher cat deterrence for when we get chickens.
       * Cons: Expensive both on start up and in that it uses electricity.
                    Some bears are big enough to just not care about it.
                    You have to put some effort into training your bears that it's there and to avoid it or they will just step around or over it.
                    Can break without warning, and animals will know before we do.

Right now we are still in the thinking phase, and just keep doing our best to scare the bear off every time one shows up. We are asking around for advice from folks who live in the area to see what they are doing. Loud noise making devices like pots and pans seems to be the way most of them deal with it. Then again, bears aren't supposed to keep coming back if they are deterred from getting food every time.

Weight Charts
Both litters have been having days of near zero growth to weight loss in and around the bear encounters. Never the less they are still overall on track to be around 5 lbs at 12 weeks. Dawn's litter has reached around 3.5 lbs average weight, and Sunny's has reached around 3 lbs average weight. Within another couple to three weeks they will be to butchering weight. I wonder if their weight gain will pick up when put in the growing out hutch and they have more space to move around.


  1. Dang! I never would have thought there were any bears left in MA. I am curious about what the Mass Wildlife website meant about "guard animals". I guess a trained bear dog, or maybe a llama? I know some shepards use llamas as guard animals.

    Out here in the West hikers are urged to carry bear spray, and as far as I know it does work, but it's a very close range (maybe 5 feet?) defense. It's essentially super-concentrated mace.

    Would you consider a paintball gun? I'm not sure if that's legal to use on wildlife, but it's probably not lethal and I would think that even though a bear's coat it would sting like hell.

    Good luck!

    1. Yeah, when the lady of the House did some research, she found that the estimate is that in our area there's 1 bear per square mile more or less. We've had 3 individuals so . . . their ranges must overlap.

      Hmmm, I wonder if I could get a paintball gun with the pepper balls . . . that would give me a little more range than even the gel OC spray which can get up to 10 or even 15 feet.

  2. I would think the best solution would be to call the Environmentat Police! They are used to these problems and can most likely be able to give you expert advice on what to do.

    1. I've spoken to the Fish and Wildlife people and they said they couldn't do anything to help, and sent me to the web page I sent you to. The EPs generally work with the department of Fish and Wildlife and are hugely over worked.

  3. Mr. Anonymous has a good option - Enviro-Mentats! Think of the possibilities!

    Speaking of The Spice, how do bears feel about cayenne?

    1. The rabbits must flow.