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How to Stay Safe in Bear Country: Avoiding Bears at your Home or Cottage
I Saw a Bear on our Deck
"Hey, there's a bear on my deck!" Words both awe-inspiring and thrilling at the same time. Seeing a bear on the deck, or somewhere else close to your house and cottage is something you want avoid. Sure, bears might be cute, but their charm is certainly better appreciated from a very safe distance.
And I should know, because I uttered those very words myself, when a bear wandered unto my deck just a couple short weeks ago. I was both terrified, and amazed. These creatures are incredible to look at, but they can also take your life. It truly was a night to remember.
My husband and I just recently bought a little house in the woods (yes, kind of Laura Ingalls Wilder) and we live right in the midst of the habitats of bears, deer, ravens and many other wild creatures. The other night, one of those bears made its way unto our deck. Our many windows, which I love, now became the very windows that this strong animal could easily break through, is so inclined Thank goodness, I am okay, but I did learn a lot from it! I hope I have learned enough to never have it happen again! This article will explain how to avoid having bears too close to your home or cottage.
If you would like to read more about my feelings during this harrowing experience, you can read all about it, here, my blog: The Night I Looked into the Face of a Bear. So, let's get started ...
Living With Bears Book
How to Avoid Attracting a Bear With Food
The most important thing to remember when dealing with bears is that they have the best sense of smell of all land animals. In fact, they have been known to smell food from eighteen miles away. So, with a honker like that, you have to REALLY make an effort to keep any type of food smells to zilch. Here are some important things to remember:
The first thing everyone learns when going into bear country is to never, ever leave garbage out unattended. Bears love that stuff, and they will travel for miles, to go after that disgusting-to-us, sweet-to-them smell. And if your neighbours happen to leave garbage out in the open, it's okay to let them know they are endangering the whole street!
As well, if you have outdoor cats or dogs, don't leave their food outside. If Fido likes those kibbles, chances are Yogi is going to like it, too! If you have feed your animals out there, give them time to eat and then clean it up.
Now, the idea of eating outside is romantic and fun. Hey, who doesn't love a good barbecue or picnic? But it's important to remember, that in bear country, the bears would love to have a picnic, too. And you don't want to be their caterer. So, whenever you decide to eat outdoors, remember these important tips.
- If you decide to barbecue on the deck, make lots of noise and don't leave your meat unattended. You don't want the bear to think it's just found an exciting new feeding station! Make lots of noise, so that you keep the bears far enough away to not be tempted.
- After eating, be sure to clean up your barbecue grill and body very well. All those drippings , fat and burn pieces can be definite bear bait.
- Even if you haven't used your barbecue for a couple of seasons, still clean it out after the snow melts, because, like I mentioned, those bear noses are ultra-sensitive! We hadn't used our grill for a couple of years, but after the bear came, I cleaned ours out, just in case this is what attracted the bear.
- If you decide to eat in your gazebo, be sure to clean up any spills and clean your dishes immediately. A dirty dish or spill food can attract bears. I admit to leaving a plate outside from the summer, and that may have been what attracted the bear a couple of months later.
- When cooking meals inside, and the windows are open, even that can sometimes attract a bear. I usually leave my windows open in the summer, but during the fall, it might be a good idea to close the window closest to your stove.
Be Sure to Clean the Barbecue Grill
What Has Been Your Experience With Bears?
How to Avoid Attracting Bears with your Yard
Okay, so you keep your garbage safely stowed away, always clean your barbecue, and watch your food smells, especially in the fall. So, what's next?
Well, even your very yard can act like a bear-magnet, if you're not careful. Even the most avid gardeners need to take some precautions, if they are sharing their neighbourhood with bears. This article from Bearsmart, a non-profit organization focused on avoiding human-bear contact in Alberta, Canada, warns against planting any trees or shrubs that produce fruits. So, as fun as it is to have fresh strawberries in your yard, it definitely puts you at risk for attracting these big animals looking for a snack.
The other major yard attractant for bears are bird-feeders. This summer, I met a neighbour who had bird-feeders in her yard when she first moved into our area. Apparently, she had heard it was dangerous to have the feeders, but didn't take it seriously. And then, she looked up one afternoon and saw a big black bear going straight after her birdfeeder. She shoo-ed him away, but then took it down right after the bear left.
I have also heard stories about bears going after birdseed, when it was locked away and dozens of feet of the ground. I think they like the birdseed more than the birds! If you absolutely can't live without a birdfeeder, just make sure it doesn't come out until winter and goes back in the house before spring.
As a gardener, composting can be a real benefit. In my research, I was not able to find a definitive answer to this question, but all sources agreed that compost should never contain any meat sources, and the smell should be kept down. This document from the government of British Columbia suggests using lime to keep the smell down. Other sources also say that bears are adverse to bleach and pine, so sprinkling some bleach or pine cleaner can be real turn-off these furry creatures. In fact, I did go and sprinkle some bleach around the front of our deck the following evening.
The agency also instructs homeowners to cut down the bush on their property, to interrupt the natural paths of the bear. In other words, make your home or cottage stand out as different from the rest of the forest! In the same vein, be sure to close any gate on your deck. Our gate was open, making it very easy for the bear to walk on. Sure, they can climb fences, but why make it easier for them? If they are not super-motivated (by smells) they might not bother to come, if you make it a bit harder. Bears are known to be pretty lazy.
For a fence that really keeps them away, make it an electric fence. One smart hubber describes how she made a solar electric fence to keep animals away from her property.
Bear Climbs Rope To Reach Treat!
Another Great Bear Sighting Article
- Black Bears In Our Backyard! Are My Photos as Good As Tom Sears?
Another hub about seeing bears on the deck. In this case, she actually took some amazing pictures!
Just Act Human, and Make Lots of Noise
The one last tip I give about avoiding bears is to just act human, and make some noise! Making noise and being active in your yard goes a long way to avoiding bear contact. From everything I have heard and read since moving to bear country, the bears want to avoid us as much as we want to avoid them. As long as we take care of the smells, the bears will try to stay out of our way. So, have lights up around your place. Make noise. Let the bear know that this is human territory, and to be avoided.
In the quest to be noisy and human, you can also use some devices, called deterrents, in your yard, to discourage the bears from ever coming close. Anything that creates light or noise can help to discourage bears. Motion-sensitive lights can be very helpful, for deterring bears from getting too close. Anything noisy set up outside, such as a string of tin cans, could rattle around and make noise which makes bears avoid your place. As well, a barking dog can also be a real discouragement to having bear visitors.
if you would like to read more about our life in the woods, please go to my blog, "Life in the Woods." I welcome any and all visitors!
© 2014 Sharilee Swaity