Grizzly bear mortalities are higher in areas where there is more interaction with people, human-generated food resources, roads and railways. Communities living in grizzly country are faced with conflict when bears are roaming around neighborhoods, down streets and occasionally causing property damage. Our staff works with local residents, tribal, state and federal agencies, non-governmental organizations and numerous other partners to develop and offer the most appropriate site-specific options to reduce problems between grizzly bears and people.
Bears are opportunistic omnivores, meaning they will eat a wide variety of foods and will vary their diet depending on what they can find. Unfortunately for a bear wandering near a home or business, this can result in deadly consequences. Unsecured garbage, birdseed, chicken coops, fruit trees, barbecue grills and pet food all lure bears in for an easy meal. Once bears learn where these food resources are, they return and sometimes bring cubs with them. Generations of bears may visit the same site repeatedly for an easy meal. Wildlife management agencies are often faced with lethally removing these bears due to human safety concerns and sometimes landowners take matters into their own hands. Bears that regularly visit these types of areas are sometimes hit and killed by cars while navigating through neighborhoods and across highways.
How We’re Helping
In the 1990s, Defenders started a coexistence program to promote and fund projects that reduce conflicts and increase tolerance. One of our most common projects is assisting with the funding for the installation of bear-resistant electric fencing to protect sanitation sites, beehives, chickens, goats and other livestock. Electric fencing is a highly adaptable and effective way to deter bears from accessing these items. Bears that learn they cannot access these tasty treats have a much better chance at survival, and the property and livestock are also protected – everybody wins!
We also assist communities with developing ordinances for attractant storage, purchasing bear-resistant garbage containers, improving tolerance, and providing bear aware outreach materials for residents, websites and other informational resources. We have supported “aversive conditioning,” teaching bears to keep their distance from humans, and help campgrounds purchase and install bear-resistant trash cans, bear-resistant food lockers and food hanging poles for backcountry sites. Our field staff also presents numerous outreach and educational programs each year to increase awareness and dispel myths about grizzly bears. All told, we’ve spent over half a million dollars on our bear-related coexistence efforts since 1998.