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Backyard Chickens Can Equal Backyard Bears

PHOTO: Young black bear. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
PHOTO: Young black bear. Photo credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
July 16, 2012

JACKSON, Wyo. - The rise in backyard chicken-keeping has led to a rise in conflicts in bear country. Once bears get a taste of chicken, they don't forget.

Education campaigns long have been in place in Wyoming to encourage people to keep trash, and even bird feeders, away from bears. Chickens are the new backyard attraction. The good news, says Erin Edge, Rocky Mountain region associate at Defenders of Wildlife, is that multi-strand electric fencing can keep bears away from chickens.

"Taking these small measures to protect their investment of their chickens also protects bears and also increases human safety."

Both grizzlies and black bears are attracted to chickens, Edge says. Two grizzlies were seen in a chicken run in Augusta last month.

A shock from a strong electric fence is a quick lesson for any bear, Edge says, and immediate education can stave off future problems that could lead to a bear being put down or relocated.

"We're actually seeing bears that are escalating behavior faster with chickens than they necessarily do with garbage. They may break into structures faster. They may stick around longer."

Bear fencing has additional benefits, Edge says, because it also keeps out almost all other predators such as coyotes, foxes and mountain lions.

Guidelines for voltage and fence design can be found online at LWWF.org.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY