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Black Bear Control

Black Bear

Start with prevention

Nuisance black bears are not a statewide problem in Missouri. Generally, they are confined to the southern counties, but they have been reported in a few northern counties as well. In the early spring, black bears emerge from their dens very hungry at a time when natural foods are scarce. It also is in the spring that family groups break up and breeding season begins.

Most of the black bears that cause nuisance problems in Missouri are yearling males that have been driven away by their mother, or threatened or attacked older males. In their search for food, it is most often these young males that come into contact with humans and cause problems.

Black bears can adapt to changes in habitat or food sources, and they will often tolerate contact with people in their search for food. In suburban areas, for example, bears may overcome their fear of people when they discover bird feeders or a readily available supply of pet food.

Also, bears are capable of remembering from year to year the location of reliable food sources. Therefore, it is important to take precautions to prevent raids from occurring and to avoid enticing bears with food. Although bears are secretive and shy by nature, they are wild and unpredictable animals. They may become aggressive if abused or unduly provoked.

Precautions should be taken to avoid confrontations and loss before bear damage occurs. The most effective and long-lasting success will be achieved through damage prevention rather than responding to a bear that already has discovered a food source. Bears learn rapidly and if their activities are rewarded by food, then barriers or harassment techniques will be less effective.

As is true with most problem wildlife, no technique will provide absolute security from nuisance problems. However, certain measures initiated in a timely manner can greatly reduce the extent and severity of bear damage.

How to avoid damage by black bears

Never intentionally feed bears! Feeding makes them lose their fear of being around people and usually results in the bears having to be destroyed. To reduce the potential of damage, don't encourage their presence or attract them to your property.

The following pages offer a more detailed review of bear damage, its identification, what to do if damage occurs, and where to go for help.

How to identify the presence of black bears

Black bears look pigeon-toed and bowlegged when they walk. Their front foot print consists of only the sole and toe impressions. Claw marks are not usually visible. The hindfoot leaves a distinctive heel impression, much like a human foot print.

The first step in solving a damage problem is to be sure bears, and not some other animals, are the cause. If you don't actually see the animal doing the damage, check the site carefully for clues, such as tracks, claw marks, feces and hair. Bears, one of the largest and heaviest wild mammals now living in Missouri, will leave behind bigger signs of their presence.

Black bears have five toes on each foot. Their hind footprint, usually about 7 inches long, resembles a person's footprint. The front ones are smaller, often measuring between 3 1/2 to 4 inches wide. Claw marks a re not always visible in the footprints.

Potential problems and solutions

Bee hives

Preventing black bear damage
  • Keep mowed, cleared corridors around hive sites.
  • Avoid placing hives in abandoned areas or near wooded, overgrown locations.
  • Locate hives as close together as possible because they are easier to protect.
  • Don't attract bears to your property by feeding them or providing supplemental food.
  • Erect temporary or permanent electric fencing.
Identifying black bear damage
  • Hives are knocked over, scattered and torn apart.
  • Honeycombs or larvae have been destroyed or consumed.

NOTE: Skunks and raccoon also may destroy bee hives. However, their tracks and feces are much smaller and the extent of their damage is less destructive than that of a bear.

What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the county conservation agent.
  • Use pyrotechnics or other harassment techniques to frighten bears away.
  • Erect temporary or permanent electric fencing baited with bacon or an open can of sardines.

Livestock and other domestic animals

Preventing black bear damage
  • Avoid pasturing livestock in abandoned locations, areas with heavy cover or fields adjacent to probable corridors used by bears.
  • Do not leave carcasses of dead livestock exposed. Bury or incinerate them completely.
  • Avoid feeding bears or providing supplemental food on your property that might attract bears.
  • When possible, pen livestock near or in the barn at night, particularly pregnant animals and those with young. Because afterbirth material attracts bears, coyotes and other predators, it is a good idea to provide a place in a barn for livestock to give birth. If this is not possible, clear pastures and fields of all afterbirth material.
Identifying black bear damage
  • Livestock surviving a bear attack will often show tooth marks on the neck at the base of the skull or long, 1/2-inch wide claw marks on the shoulders. Livestock that have succumbed to a bear attack often will have a broken neck or back as a result of blows from the bear's paws.
  • Bears will often drag or carry a carcass away from the kill site, catch it, and return regularly to feed on it.
  • Bears often will strip back or reverse the skin of larger prey, particularly along the back, and lick the meat from the bones. They do not normally eat the bones and skin. The udder of lactating female prey is highly preferred by bears and often will be eaten first.
  • Inexperienced bears might expose the intestines, but muscle tissue usually is preferred and consumed.

NOTE: Care must be taken to distinguish bear damage from that of other carnivores, especially coyotes and domestic dogs. Coyotes usually kill their prey with bites to the neck, and feed on internal organs and hindquarters first rather than on the back or shoulders. Coyotes and dogs will not make long, 1/2 inch wide claw marks on the body. Also, coyotes and dogs usually do not strip back the prey's skin, but they will eat and chew the bones.

What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the county conservation agent.
  • Consider modifying or replacing existing fence with high-tensile, low impedance electric fence around animal enclosures baited with bacon or an open can of livestock dines.
  • Use guard dogs to discourage bears and warn of their presence.
  • Move livestock to another pasture.
  • Use pyrotechnics or other harassment livestock techniques to frighten bears away.

Orchards

Preventing black bear damage
  • Keep mowed, open corridors around the orchard and between the trees.
  • Don't attract bears to your property by feeding them or providing supplemental food.
  • Put up an electric fence.
  • Use guard dogs to discourage bears fro coming into the orchard.
Identifying black bear damage
  • Small trees are stripped of branches or mature trees have large limbs broken in the tops.
  • Claw marks may be seen 4 1/2 to 6 feet above the ground.
What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the county conservation agent.
  • Use guard dogs to discourage bears and warn of their presence.
  • Use single-strand polypropylene electric tape around the perimeter of the orchard or around individual trees. Bait the fence with bacon or an open can of sardines. Prefabricated electric net fence can be used around individual trees. Consider installing permanent, high-tensile, electric fence around the orchard.
  • Use pyrotechnics other harassment techniques to frighten bears away.

Corn and sorghum crops

Preventing black bear damage
  • Keep mowed, open corridors around and between fields.
  • Don't attract bears to your property by feeding them or providing supplemental food.
Identifying black bear damage
  • Look for large, circular patches within the field's interior where stalks have been pulled inward and flattened or broken.
  • Ears of corn will be completely eaten or cleaned of kernels. More plants may be damaged than are actually consumed.
  • The damage occurs at the milk-stage of development.

NOTE: Take extra care to check held signs because a wide variety of animals damage corn. Raccoons often pull down stalks, strip the husks and will chew kernels from an ear, but normally do not cause the large circular patches of damage. Other animals such as deer and coyotes, will nip at the ears and silk, while beavers will chew, fell and remove the stalks.

What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the counts conservation agent.
  • Keep guard dogs to discourage bears and warn of their presence. Put up single-strand polypropylene electric tape around fields or at least on the most exposed side or sides of a field as the crop matures, especially just prior to and at the milk-stage of development. Bait the fence with bacon or an open can of sardines.
  • Use pyrotechnics or other harassment techniques to frighten bears away.

Trash receptacles

Preventing black bear damage
  • Empty trash cans as often as possible and wash with a scented disinfectant to reduce the food odors.
  • Keep trash containers inside at night. Place trash and garbage outside only on the day of pickup.
  • Outdoors, use large trash bins that have metal, lockable lids.
  • Keep lids locked at night. a Secure large, outdoor trash bins so they cannot be turned over.
  • Empty large, outdoor trash bins at least once a week and wash with disinfectant.
Identify black bear damage
  • Trash containers are knocked over and the contents scattered.
  • Large, outdoor trash bins are turned over with garbage, plastic bags and wrappers sometimes carried 100 yards away and scattered.

NOTE: Care must be taken not to confuse bear damage with that of raccoons, dogs and other scavengers that commonly knock over trash cans and scatter the contents. These smaller animals often remain inside a large trash bin to eat whereas bears will usually remove the contents and scatter them over a considerable area around the receptacle.

What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the county conservation agent.
  • Erect temporary or permanent electric fencing baited with bacon, sardines or other food that attract black bears.
  • Use pyrotechnics or other harassment techniques to frighten bears away.

Campgrounds

Preventing black bear damage
  • Keep your campsite clean and free of food odor, wash cookware and remove garbage daily.
  • Do not leave garbage in the camp overnight.
  • Pack food in closed containers and place them in your car or other secure place.
  • When backpacking, place food in plastic or burlap bags and suspend over tree limbs at least 5 feet from the nearest tree trunk, and at least 12 feet above the ground each night.
Identifying black bear damage
  • Food containers are broken into, and items are scattered about.
  • Trash receptacles are raided.
What to do if damage occurs
  • Contact the county conservation agent.
  • If the bear returns make noise, bang pots, and slowly retreat to a safe areas.
  • Consider moving to another camping area.

Electric fencing tips to discourage bears

The specific design and list of materials for an electric fence will vary depending on each situation and the area to be protected. Suggested electric fencing options include: temporary, prefabricated electric net fencing with support posts incorporated into the fence; permanent, high-tensile, electrified wire on wooden posts; or temporary, polypropylene electric tape on fiberglass posts. Use low-impedence fence chargers. If the bear already has raided the area, bait the fence with some of the bear's favorite food. One proven method is to wrap strips of bacon on the low-intensity electrically charged wires. Another is to attach a partially open can of sardines to the charged portion of the fence with a piece of wire. When the bear takes a bite of the food, it will get shocked and associate the pain with the food source. A surprised animal usually will not return.

Material list for an energized fence

Amount Item
1 Energizer power source (batteries, solar, etc.)
As needed Insulators for corner posts
As needed Line posts
As needed Line post clips or insulators
As needed 17 1/2-gauge steel wire or 16 1/2-gauge light barbed wire
As needed Corner posts
4 Spring type gate handles
2 or 3 4-foot galvanized steel ground rods
2 or 3 Ground rod clamps
As needed Underground cable for lead out if using 110-volt power source
As needed Electric fence warning signs
Optional Chicken wire 2 feet wide, placed 6 inches from the fence all around the outside. Hold chicken wire in place with 12-inch plastic tent pegs. Connect negative or ground lead securely to mat using 18-gauge copper wire.

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