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.

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.

Proactive Solutions Reduce Bear Incidents

Proactive Livestock Management

Proactive Solutions

Livestock depredation by carnivores such as bears, cougars and wolves is a major concern for agricultural producers in Alberta. Between 2009 and 2012, over 1/3 of all grizzly bear relocations have been as a result of bears attacking livestock. See Grizzly Bear Conservation in Alberta Annual Reports. There are preventative actions one can take to reduce the chances of bears attacking livestock. One example is the use of electric fence.

In 2012 Bear Conflict Solutions (BCS) partnered with a landowner in southern Alberta to try and prevent grizzly bears from predating on his ranched elk. This rancher had lost 15 elk over a two year period to grizzly bears. The bears had learned to dig under his 8 foot high elk fence. This situation became a losing proposition for grizzly bears as well as 4 different bears were trapped and relocated from this property. In discussions with officials from Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD), electric fence was identified as a potential proactive solution to this problem. As a result, the landowner took the initiative to erect a single strand electric fence around his 3 mile stretch of fenced elk corrals. BCS agreed to provide some financial support towards the project. The fence was completed in the summer of 2012 and there have been no grizzly bear incidents since that time.

Attractant Management 2012

Proactive Solutions

Unsecured attractants are a major concern for residents living and working in bear country. In southwest Alberta, livestock feed continues to be a main cause of human bear conflict. It is often the result of inadequate grain storage such as grain sheds with holes in the walls/doors or faulty doors on metal grain bins. There are systems in place to address these deficiencies.

In 2012, Bear Conflict Solutions (BCS) partnered with Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) and a southern Alberta rancher to address the continuing problem of bears accessing unsecured grain on his property. This area had seen a number of grizzly bears accessing unsecured grain resulting in the relocation of at least two grizzly bears over the last few years. BCS, in partnership with ESRD and the landowner, purchased a used sea canister to secure the grain. The landowner covered the costs of picking up the container and retrofitting it to meet his needs. The end result is a secure grain bin that has resulted in no grain-related human–bear conflict since the container was installed in July 2012.

Program Update:

Greater Yellowstone Coalition along with Bridger Teton National Forest in Montana have started using the retrofitted shipping canisters based on information and advice about this program. Click to read this story, Turpin, Pacific Creek get bear-proof boxes, in the JH News and Guide. Additional requests for containers have been received as well as information requests from Montana State Parks for issues with black bears they’ve had on the Smith River. Good ideas are spreading.


Attractant Management program reduces human-bear interactions

SECURING SUCH UNNATURAL ATTRACTANTS as garbage and birdfeeders does not necessarily mean your bear problems are over. Bears are on a continual search for food and if natural foods are available within communities or other developed sites, bears will come. These bears, as with garbage and birdfeeders can become habituated and/or food conditioned, resulting in bears being relocated or euthanized out of concern for public safety. Removing the natural food source within developed areas will encourage bears to move to other more natural areas to feed. This can reduce the level of human bear interactions, reducing public safety concerns and associated human caused bear mortality. By removing natural attractants within developed areas, grizzly bears will be encouraged to move to other areas such as existing wildlife corridors and habitat patches. This will reduce human bear interactions and associated human caused bear mortality. This will contribute to the goal of maintaining habitat connectivity and reducing human caused wildlife mortality in the Bow Valley.

The Bow Valley and Rocky Mountain parks west of Calgary, Alberta have been experimenting with this concept for a number of years now. Bear Conflict Solutions, in cooperation with Alberta Sustainable Resource Development (ASRD), Alberta Tourism Parks and Recreation (ATPR), the Town of Canmore and Municipal District of Bighorn and with funds from the Kananaskis Legacy Fund through Alberta Ecotrust, continue to remove buffalo berry and other berry producing shrubs from developed sites in the Region. This program is testing a bioherbicide on berry producing vegetation. The bio-herbicide is intended to impede regrowth of the freshly cut vegetation, thereby negating the need to return to the area in the future to recut regrowth. This will result in a more cost effective method of attractant removal than is currently in place. Currently, areas will grow back every 5 to 7 years, requiring recutting and additional funding resources.

The objectives of this program are:

  • To reduce grizzly and black bear activity within developed sites including townsites, campgrounds and picnic areas. This will reduce human-bear interactions, improve public safety and the resulting human caused bear mortality
  • To impede regrowth of natural bear attractants within developed sites through the cutting and subsequent application of a bio herbicide
  • To educate the public on the benefits of removing natural attractants from both public and private lands i.e. their homes

Innovative Bear Bin Loaner program involves community

Bear Conflict SolutionsIN PARTNERSHIP WITH the Alberta Conservation Association and UnBearAble Bins Inc., Bear Conflict Solutions instituted a “Bear Resistant Container Loaner Program” for the community of Bragg Creek and area in 2006 in an effort to reduce incidents of bear human conflict related to unnatural foods. Bear resistant garbage bins were made available to residents of the Bragg Creek area to prevent bears from accessing resident’s garbage, dog food, bird seed and other unnatural bear foods. This program was extended to the MD of Foothills in 2008 through the financial support of Alberta Sustainable Resource Development and the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative. This program is now operating in multiple communities in Alberta.

The objectives of the program are:

  • To purchase and disseminate bear-resistant containers to residents experiencing bear problems resulting from onsite artificial attractants;
  • To monitor the outcome of container use in terms of eliminating bear attractants and reducing problem bear activity;
  • To educate residents regarding the effective management of bear attractants; and
  • To encourage residents to take proactive measures to eliminate bear attractants and reduce the potential for bear-human conflicts in the long-term.

The Bear Bin Loaner program represents an innovative approach that proactively engages community members in bear management, encouraging residents of rural communities to be good stewards of wildlife. Working with and empowering residents of rural communities to take the initiative in managing attractants is a fundamental element of the bear-resistant container program. Results of this program are available in this report. CLICK TO VIEW OR DOWNLOAD (166 KB)