In Lincoln County, Montana, electric fences are now being used to effectively separate bears from humans. According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’s bear management specialist, Kim Annis, electric fences can help to prevent future conflicts.
“We work for the residents and the bears,” said Annis in an interview with The Western News “We don’t want to chase conflicts around as they happen, but prevent them before they do. Electric fencing does work and it can work for more situations than people may be aware of.”
Electric park residential fencing, she says, is both simple and effective, making it a good solution. There are loan programs available in order to make it easier for residents living in bear country to obtain their own electrified residential fences. Defenders of Wildlife, a local nonprofit, has also pledged to reimburse 50% of the cost of electric fence installation.
One of the reasons bears are in increasing conflict with nearby human life is their ability to adapt and learn. A bear only needs to get into a trash can once to learn that it’s a great source of food. Similarly, getting a mild shock from an electric fence can be a powerful lesson in staying away from these spots. Using fences for prevention efforts are important for encouraging bears to live further away from residential areas, as bears that consistently appear near homes and people often have to be euthanized.
Why are electric fences used for bears, and not wooden fences or chain link fences, among other choices? For better or for worse, very little can keep bears away from a potential food source other than electric fencing. Bee keepers around the country are one group that have experimented extensively with potential solutions, only to realize that bears can overcome anything other than the electric shock (which surprises but doesn’t injure the bear).
“The only way to keep bears wild is to prevent this situation in the first place,” explained Annis. Hopefully, better fencing in this part of western Montana will help to protect both bears and humans.
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