BearSmart: The basics of Electric Fencing to deter bears

Electric-Fences-and-Bears-Fact-Sheet-2017Securing available attractants as much as possible is an effective way of preventing bears from visiting in the first place. This can include placing garbage and pet or livestock feed inside buildings or in a bear resistant container or removing fruit from trees or bushes before bears can get to it. A properly constructed and maintained electric fence can be an effective way of protecting livestock and bee yards from bears. These preventative measures will reduce incidents of loss, property damage and alleviate public safety concerns. It will also reduce the need to remove or kill bears. Click to view or download.

Documentary: Living with Wildlife

Bear Conflict Solutions and partners are pleased to announce the completion of the 25-minute documentary Living with Wildlife.

“The idea for this project came after Alberta Environment and Parks (AEP) held the Western Black Bear conference in Canmore and toured the visiting biologists from all over North America to see our garbage systems, attractant management program, highway fencing and crossing structures and wildlife corridors. They were just amazed at what we’d been able to accomplish in the Bow Valley,” says Jay Honeyman, Human Wildlife Conflict Biologist for AEP.

“This film was a great collaborative effort to showcase all the innovative programs that exist in the Bow Valley in order for people and wildlife to coexist.” Says local filmmaker Leanne Allison, “I’m super excited to share it with our community before we take the film to a wider audience.”

The film illustrates how there is a culture around living with wildlife in the Bow Valley, described as the busiest place in the world where people and grizzly bears continue to coexist. The film also takes a realistic look at the challenges and the constant pressures wildlife face.

“The film shows how a kind of paradigm shift needs to happen with recreation in the valley. People need to be aware of seasonal wildlife sensitivities and plan their activities accordingly. Last summer was a great example of how bears needed space because the buffalo berry crop was so good,” says John Paczkowski, Ecologist with AEP, “there were many bear closures during that time and for the most part people respected them. People realized it was much easier for them to accommodate bears at that time of year rather than the other way around.”

Living With Wildlife from Leanne Allison on Vimeo.

The Bow Valley is the busiest place in the world where people and grizzly bears still coexist. ‘Living with Wildlife’ is the story of how communities in the Bow Valley of Alberta, Canada have come together over the past 20 years to live with grizzly bears and other wildlife.

Partners on this project include The Calgary Foundation, Town of Canmore, Alberta Environment and Parks, Yellowstone to Yukon, Nature Conservancy of Canada, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and a handful of private donors.

Bow Valley Filmmaker Releases “Living With Wildlife” Trailer

Exciting news! Bear Conflict Solutions has partnered with Bow Valley filmmaker Leanne Allison to create an exciting new film that highlights how the Bow Valley is Living with Wildlife. The film documents the numerous wildlife mitigation projects that have occurred over the years in the Bow Valley including the creation of wildlife corridors, highway fencing and crossing structures, aversive conditioning, renowned educational programs and attractant management programs that include community bear proof garbage containers, and wildlife attractant bylaws and attractant removal.

Check out how the Bow Valley continues to find ways to “live with wildlife” through collaboration and innovation. Here is the Living with Wildlife trailer and look for the main film to be shared publicly in March 2017.

Living With Wildlife Trailer from Living With Wildlife on Vimeo.

An Electric Fence for Chickens

In June 2016 , landowners west of Cochrane began experiencing grizzly bear problems, specifically bears were accessing bee yards and chicken coops.

Bear Conflict Solutions Institute

Bear Conflict Solutions assisted one landowner who had her chickens killed by a grizzly bear by erecting an electric fence around the chicken coop. Find out how you can secure your chickens from bears.

As of November, 2016 , there have not been any recorded incidents of conflict at this site.

BCS assists landowners with electric fence projects

Bear Conflict Solutions assisted the C5 Ranch, east of Chain Lakes in Southern Alberta, erect a 6 strand electric fence on 55 acres to protect their herd of goats (as described in the second Waterton Biosphere Reserve report on Large Carnivore Attractant Management Projects in Southwestern Alberta 2013-2014).

Janice and Kelly Cornforth
C5 Ranch
Chain Lakes, Alberta

Janice and Kelly Cornforth manage the C5 ranch, east of Chain Lakes Recreation Area and northeast of Bob Creek Wildland Provincial Park in parkland and open grasslands. The high hills behind their home provide habitat for moose, elk, deer, and a whole suite of large carnivores, as well as grazing cattle and goats. Yes, goats.

“Saying you have goats in a ranching community is kind of like saying you have a social disease,” says Kelly. “The goats are here for brush and weed control. We’re trying to control larkspur because it’s really prevalent here and has killed a lot of cattle; in six years we’ve probably lost no less than 15 to 20 head of cows. And it’s a watershed, so I don’t want to do a bunch of spraying. Cattle loss to larkspur has been substantial enough to try something new.”

Goats have been on the C5 Ranch since 2012. “[People] keep telling us our goats are really healthy because we have triplets and quadruplets,” explain Janice and Kelly. “It’s a pretty good life for a goat because all their [preferred foods] don’t get grazed. We don’t have to worm them because they eat so much bark.” Unlike sheep and cattle, which are grass grazers, goats target weeds, woody material, shrubs, and plants that are lethal to livestock, such as larkspur. “If it meant surviving,” says Kelly, “I think goats would eat windshield wipers.”

The boer-cross goats are kept purely as weed and brush control and to keep aspen and poplars at bay. The Cornforths do not milk their goats and aside from the billies (males), they don’t get sold at market. In addition to running a year-round goat herd, the Cornforths manage a commercial cattle herd for C5 Ranch and raise working ranch/cow horses.

Bear Conflict Solutions Institute

Attractants and Conflict Risk

“We knew there were always grizzly bears in the valley but we’d never had any issues,” says Kelly. “For a long time, the coyotes were the only things that would hassle the goats and the guardian dogs could handle them. The cougars don’t seem to be an issue. And we don’t have the wolf numbers in here yet that they do just west.” But since goats have settled into C5 Ranch, bears have started coming in closer to the Cornforth home and outbuildings – and staying. In the summer of 2013, the Cornforths estimate they lost 20 head of goats. Of those, one was confirmed as a predator kill. “The government sent us a cheque for thirty dollars. It probably wasn’t even worth the stamp to send the cheque,” reflects Kelly. In the current predator compensation program, the valuation mechanism of killed livestock is not as standardized for goats and sheep as it is for cattle (changes made in 2015 have improved this situation). The market value for that goat in the fall would have been anywhere between $100-130 per head.

The Cornforths have also experienced depredations on their cattle. “[Fish and Wildlife] decided it was a bear [kill] on one calf. The other they confirmed it was a kill but they couldn’t decide who got it first, bear or wolf. The skull was crushed and the holes in the hide were in all the spots for both of them. They just said it was confirmed.” Neighbours have also had confirmed grizzly bear kills as well. “As far as predation goes, the thing that’s worked for us is we [are] out in the cattle at least every other day. We’ve established a presence not [just] for the sake of predation but [also] for the sake of knowing what’s going on with our cows.”

The Cornforths take advantage of the Deadstock Program with free on-site pickup. “We never had a lot of dead issues. We have a smaller number of cattle so the odd one that would die, we would take it as far up on the hill as possible so that [the predators] could stay away from us. I don’t like the idea of a dead pile; it is basically bait.” Asked whether they’ve noticed a difference in large carnivore traffic since using the Deadstock Program, Kelly says, “I think the only difference is the population or the influx of bears is a lot more now, regardless of what we’ve done. I think what we’ve done has certainly kept it from being an issue around the buildings and a place [predators] can all congregate.”

Mitigation Projects

The spring of 2013 “was like the beginning of things to come,” reflects Kelly. On separate occasions, several grizzly bears were seen in their barn-side pens with goat kids in their mouths. One night Kelly was charged by a sow grizzly while trying to get her to leave.

Jeff Bectell, of the Waterton Biosphere Reserve, contacted the Cornforths about an electric fencing project to keep bears, as well as coyotes and wolves, out of their goat pens and pastures. Kelly appreciated the outreach. “In this situation we knew bears were living up [in the hills] so we needed something big enough and permanent. There were guardian dogs with the goats but it didn’t seem to matter. So [the electric fence would] take a little pressure off the guardian dogs and eliminate conflict,” says Kelly.

The Cornforths worked with WBR to design a six-strand fence to contain 55 acres of goat pasture. Instead of adding all new wires to existing sections of fence, they used three strands of existing barbed wire for the “ground” wires and added three strands of stranded cable for the “hot” wires (Figure 14). In places that had old barbed wire fence, they replaced the posts and barbed wire. To provide power to the large fence, they hooked up a 110-volt charger to plug-in electrical service.

Installing the fence took almost a month; planning where to put the fence took an equally long time. “Understanding the plan didn’t take long because we talked to the right people. But you have to think about where is the best place to put [the electric fence] for snow drifting, creeks, trees falling down,” says Kelly.

So far, the Cornforths are happy with the electric fence. “The things that it can’t do, I didn’t think it could. When the snow drifts up, I never expected it to be able to handle that. But it’s a good design. It’s not cheap and it isn’t simple but it’s good,” says Kelly. Time to maintain the fence is “a little bit more than we thought. When [moose or deer jump over and] break the top wire it wraps around the barbed wire so it takes two people to fix it,” says Janice. Despite the higher maintenance, the Cornforths hope to electric fence another, larger section of land that needs brush and larkspur control. This would improve cattle pasture and also give goats more space to graze. “Our primary focus is cattle and horses,” say Janice and Kelly. With the addition of the electric fence, they can now spend less time worrying about goats.

For more information about ranching and conflict mitigation projects, visit the Waterton Biosphere Reserve website.

In The News – Rancher Safety Workshops

Bear Conflict Solutions has been working with landowners and other interested parties including Alberta Bear Smart, SALTS, and the Waterton Biosphere Reserve. BCS has provided expertise and financial support toward over half a dozen workshops to ranchers and acreage owners in southern Alberta over the last few years. One of the key results stemming from these workshops is the recognition that bear spray can be an effective tool during interactions with bears and other wildlife. Click to view this report about Efficacy of Bear Deterrent Spray.

Bear Conflict Solutions
Children as young as eight-years-old learn how to operate a bear spray cannister during a workshop that focuses on safety for ranchers. (Tim Devlin/CBC)

Calgary Herald: Ranchers learn how to deal with bears and wolves in Alberta’s foothills

June 18, 2016

BAR U RANCH — One by one, residents and landowners in Alberta’s foothills grabbed a can of inert bear spray and practised spraying it at a wood cut-out of a bear about five metres away.

The lesson was part of a bear safety workshop held for about 50 area residents on Friday.

“It’s nice to come and get some instruction,” said Wendy Dunn, a Calgarian who lives with her husband, John, in the Porcupine Hills.

They’ve seen a lot of black bears and cougars, and their neighbours have seen grizzlies on their property.

It’s a new reality in ranching country east of the Rockies in the past decade, leading to increasing conflicts between landowners and large carnivores in recent years.

Click to view the full article on the Calgary Herald website.

CBC Calgary: Alberta ranchers brush up on bear safety during workshop

July 21, 2015

Farmers and ranchers in southern Alberta have been seeing more bears in recent years and a workshop has been designed to help them deal with the encounters.

A key part of the workshop is learning how to use pepper spray effectively.

Children as young as eight are included in the training.

Alberta Parks spokesperson Jay Honeyman says they have run the workshop several times and it is paying off.

Click to view the full article on the CBC News Calgary website.

Carrying Bear Spray is now fashionable!

This is 'The Griz' model of Scat Belt. It comes in several colours.
This is ‘The Griz’ model of Scat Belt. It comes in several colours.

You know that carrying bear spray is becoming more accepted when you see how fashionable – and practical – the holsters have become! This is ‘The Griz’ model from Scat. You can find them at I noticed that Mountain Equipment Co-op is now carrying the product and Trail Sports in Canmore, AB. They come in several colours and varieties, enough to fill a display rack. There was a time not too long ago (like last year) when the only choices available were the crappy neoprene holsters that always tore or the bulky webbing and Velcro holsters that looked like one of batman’s utility belt items.

Recently, I had the opportunity to try this belt for a week. I brought it trail running, hiking and even for a walk around town. My first impression is that it looks like gear that you would buy from a running store. It comes in trendy colours and it’s nicely designed. I think that many people have shied away from the traditional police-like holsters and opted not to carry bear spray for a few glaring reasons:

  1. They simply don’t wear a belt to which they can attach the holster, or
  2. Because the swat-team-like holster appears too aggressive, or
  3. They look hideous. I mean bear-geek awful. Lets admit it!

To drive home the fashion point, no one noticed or commented on the Scat Belt when I wore it downtown except for my 14-year-old daughter who was working a shift at a busy ice-cream outlet. Between scoops, she asked me what I was wearing, so I spun around and she said “Oh, it’s a bear spray belt. Cool.” Believe me, if I had stood in line, in her ice cream shop while she was working with a regular holster she would have pretended not to know me. Okay, enough said on that point.

I’m an avid ultra-distance trail runner and I’ve experimented with several different methods of carrying bear spray over the years. So far, my favorite way is with a well-placed pocket on a running vest. I only wear my vest on long runs though. Anything under a few hours and I just wear a belt with a water bottle holder minus the water bottle, so that I can carry the bear spray somewhere. It still flaps around and doesn’t ride well. Oftentimes I leave the belt at home and just carry the spray in a hand.

The Scat Belt carries the bulky bottle in a horizontal tube that is held close to the body near the small of the back, so that when I ran, I didn’t notice it at all. I didn’t have to cinch the belt to tightly like my other homemade rigs nor did I have to keep adjusting the belt from spinning around my waste while in motion. It was perfect! Finally a belt I can use for running. The Griz adds a cell phone pocket and a mesh pocket that nicely fits a single gel – as you can see in the photo.

The only downside to this belt is that it’s not reversible (or flippable, if that makes sense). If it were a holster in the wild west, I’d lose my first shoot-out because I’m not a south paw! The belt seems to be designed to be worn either way, so that you could choose where to put the opening for the holster but if you did that, the pockets would be upside down. So, for the time being, you will have to practice drawing the spray with your left hand, repeatedly, to get the hang of it.

The materials used in the belt are light, sufficiently padded and dry quickly. There are some extra loops where you could conceivably attach another pocket or something but I think it’s fine just the way it is. It’s a minimalist’s dream. I didn’t try it but I could have worn this belt with my hydration belt. I suppose you could also spin the belt around so that the holster rides on one side or the other or up front even.

I encourage everyone who lives, works or plays in bear country to carry bear spray for their protection and the bear’s. This innovative product from Scat will make doing so much easier – and fashionable! Runners: you now have a something that will work without the addition of duct tape and zip ties!

Dustin Lynx


Non fruit bearing trees a solution to reducing bear interactions

Bear in my fruit tree poster

Every year in Canada bears come into conflict with people by coming into developed areas in search of natural and unnatural food. The bears begin to learn that developed areas can be a source of food which increases interactions between bears and people and creates a public safety concern and potential property damage. These interactions can also result in the bear being relocated or destroyed.

Fruit bearing trees and shrubs are one example of an unnatural food that bears and other wildlife are attracted to. Several local communities in Alberta in conjunction with Alberta Bear Smart and Eagle Lake Nurseries have created a list of trees and shrubs that are non fruit bearing yet still produce beautiful flowers seasonally. The Towns of Canmore, Lac Des Arcs and Blairmore have recently planted non fruit bearing trees and shrubs in their communities. Bear Conflict Solutions has provided financial support for these projects.

For more information on these programs, please visit Bow Valley Wildsmart and Crowsnest Conservation Society.