Co-Habitation with Bears

I live in the Rural Crescent in Prince William County. There’s been a lot of over development which is effecting the natural habitation of black bears that have always lived here. It’s autumn now and they are foraging for the winter months ahead of them. Some say the bears do not truly hibernate in these parts of the US, but nevertheless, they still need to forage.

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of reports on Nextdoor and Facebook groups for the neighborhood concerning bears. One poor woman had a duck that they loved and cherished. The duck even had her own house, a large shed enclosure that was beautifully decorated in red paint and white trim. It looked like something out of a fairy tale. Sadly, the neighbor caught a lone bear on camera relaxing next to the duck house after lunching on the woman’s pet duck. I can only imagine her sadness.

Another neighbor, discovered her whole flock decimated and the coop destroyed. She raises chickens like me and my family do. She was heartbroken to say the least. Even still, she didn’t blame the bear. These incidents didn’t occur in such a large quantity from previous years.

Development isn’t supposed to happen in our town as much as it happens in other townships or cities. However, lawmakers are changing the way the law protects the rural crescent. Developers are not letting up and woods are being destroyed forcing the bears to live out and about with us humans.

My family and I knew that raising chickens could be precarious in the woods. Even still, after Charlotte was attacked and killed by what we believe was a hawk (unsuccessfully) and then finished off by a fox, the ordeal was traumatizing. My kids were especially shook. But it is a true, real life nature story about the cycle of life.

Earlier this year, I woke up to see a bear strolling casually through my backyard. The property backs into woods and I assume he/she was walking back to her den. It was an awesome sight for sure. It walked right past my coop with my chickens inside of it.

A few days ago, my husband stepped onto our balcony for his morning coffee when he spotted a bear. We had recently affixed a dog run to the chicken coop so that the chickens could come and go out of the coop as they pleased. The dog run was entirely enclosed so they would be protected from hawks, foxes, and coyotes. In order for the whole thing to fit, we moved the coop against the fence.

That morning when my husband saw the bear, the bear was right outside the fence and peeling it back to get to the coop. As soon as my husband rushed inside, I got my jacket on and ran downstairs to the bottom deck. My husband yelled at me not to go outside. The coop was a good 500 feet from me, but I know despite their lumbering appearance bears could run fast. I yelled for the bear to go away and banged on the deck.

Finally, my husband came out and yelled to light the tiki torches we had on both sides of the deck. I could hear the bear snort in response to our yells and screams. He/she made no signs of backing away.

But luckily as soon as we lit the torches the bear took off to the woods. I couldn’t see it run as it will still very dark outside, but I could feel the vibrations the ground made as it pounded through my neighbor’s yard and beyond. We are so thankful the coop wasn’t damaged, but he did peel back my chain link fence like it was butter.

Since then, we have made some additional reinforcements. We moved the coop to the center of the yard and we are fixing our fence. In this situation, the best thing is to get an electric fence as a deterrent. Since we have a metal fence, we will have to do some research about what type of electric fence we can use if any. I certainly wouldn’t want the fence to go off all the time and kill all types of animals or start a fire. We might not get an electric fence for fear of fire since we live so close to the woods. But we are adding extra barriers.

The sad thing is, news spread fast and a lot of people are up in arms about this “nuisance” bear. It is sad to have pets you loved (all livestock so far) be killed and eaten in this fashion. I hope the ones who want to hunt the bear have good intentions regarding protecting their loved ones, but I think they are just using it as an excuse to go and kill it.

People, if you live where there are wildlife about, there are many things you can do to try and deter disturbances on your property.

  • Secure trash. There are many containers that are animal proof.
  • Secure your livestock. This might mean an electric fence if your property is ideal for it.
  • Do not leave food out.
  • Always make noise when you’re outside. The worse thing you can do is surprise any type of large animal, predator or not.
  • Don’t have livestock (We already do and we are not the type to give up our pets, but after they’re gone unless we move, I don’t think we’ll have more.)
  • Carry bear spray. This can be more effective than a gun sometimes.
Photo taken with Focos

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