A grizzly end to self-sufficiency

Well, the inevitable has happened. It was a dry summer, so not  many berries around for our ursine co-inhabitants here in this remote rainforest valley. In addition, the fish runs were down. Then last weekend we had our fifty-year flash flood, which swept away both fish and berries, and blurred the notional “boundary lines” which the officials fondly imagine keep humans from bears/cougars and keep the peace. For the last month there have been intimations that those boundaries were about as effective as Chamberlain’s piece of paper in 1939: neighbours reported seeing a grizzly bear routinely ambling around my property; my husband (who is tending the farm while we decide what to do with it and our lives) eventually saw him/her sitting thirty meters from my house, across the grass and orchard, behind the two boundary fences, calmly surveying the pickings. The next night he made his move and broke the main branches on my two pear trees and apple trees. David reported the attack to the RAPP centre in Kamloops and also crosses the road to the Ministry of Earth and Water, where a generous parks official lent me an electric fence, which friends and he set up encircling the orchard; meanwhile we picked almost all the remaining fruit. He thought about ringing our year old $22 000 chicken barn instead, but felt it was as solid as a building could be.

Two weeks later he heard that at least two neighbours down the highway had their chicken houses ransacked and lost their entire flocks. Then the floods hit, and everyone was preoccupied with surviving, then with trying to save their possessions, cars, houses, fences, bridges, stock, food. That same night one of my egg customers phoned to warn about these attacks and offered the use of her gun; frankly, she said, she wanted to protect her food supply.

David decided to move the electric fence, but was suffering a back injury and decided to postpone it until the weekend and some more healing had first taken place. Meanwhile he increased the lights and radios around the chicken house, and stowed away and secured the bags of feed even more securely behind at least two four inch thick doors.

The following night around 11  pm he heard the scream of a hen. There was a new moon so it was black outside, but from my house he could see an illuminated side of the chicken shed about two metres  away and he could see no commotion. He could only guess that the bear had entered from the side, the weakest side of course. Without a dog or gun, surrounded by neighbours, with the flooded slough still saturating the ground all around, he could do little besides yell “shoo bear!” and bang some pots and pans. Later that night he heard more shrieks, but at dawn my restless fears were allayed when he heard the familiar cock crow. Unlike Peter, he felt relieved of his guilt–until he dressed and went down to let them out to free range, and discovered the side door ripped open, and a line of carcasses stretching through the broken page wire fence and under the trees towards the neighbour’s lawn. Inside, the remainder of my flock were traumatised, the biggest rooster hobbling about with one wing extended, a claw puncture mark on his back. There was even one dead chicken, otherwise untouched, inside the hen house.

He reported the attack to Kamloops (a mere 743 kms drive away) and was contacted at work later that day by our Conservation Officer who by good fortune had just made it back into the valley that day. They rendezvoused at 6 pm and David showed him the wooden barricade  had erected overt the broken door. The CO laughed and said a grizzly would toss that side with his little ginger, literally.

“That’s what I feared,” Davie confessed, “but I have no other defence save the electric fence. And that seems so puny.”

“Actually that’s the best defence,” he said. They tracked the bear scat and chicken bodies across my neighbour’s property and back into the bush which stretches a hundred meters to the highway. He didn’t want to go any further.

“So,” David quite rightly asked, “since you’re staying nearby, when I see the bear tonight I’ll phone you and you can come and shoot it?”

“I wish I could, but no,” he sighed again. “If the fence is broken, then I can.”

“So twenty carcasses, a ravaged chicken house and a loss of livelihood aren’t enough.”

“You got it. Ministry policy. I must obey. If he attacks your goats, on the other hand, then I can shoot.”

“Who makes these rules?”

Apparently, he shrugged with–what I hope was–embarrassment and turned away.

David spent the next three hours and into the darkness moving the electric fence to surround my chicken house. My remaining flock reluctantly returned to the scene of the crime except for one canny rooster which, for a time, tried to roost in a nearby tree. David left them to the tender mercies of the night, the barricaded door and turned on the electric current, and hoped for the best.

That was last night. At dawn they were all still safe, but the biggest rooster was barely dragging himself around. David did, however, find bear scat outside my living room window on the grass and in front of the goat gate ten meters across from my house. He noticed the wooden superstructure above the five foot log railing fence (which I had erected to dissuade the goats from jumping out) had been broken down. I have seven pygmy goats now, and five get moved every night out of their pen and into their locked quarters in the nearby barn; the two grown boys like to take their chances in their run. They were safe, but I wonder for how long. Part of me dreads going out tomorrow morning and finding two goat carcasses by the fence; the other part looks forward to it so that then I will have reason to get the CO to shoot the grizzly.

Or maybe I should work with the current capitalist regime, move back to the farm, and put a sign at my gate saying: “BEAR VIEWING STATION: see the grizzly at close quarters as it kills chickens, smashes fruit trees and rips apart pygmy goats–LIVE! P.S.: Since my livelihood is being destroyed in front of your eyes, donations gratefully accepted.”

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35 Comments

Filed under Animal issues, Bears, Chickens, Conservation, Educational, Food Security, Goats, Politicking with predators

35 responses to “A grizzly end to self-sufficiency

  1. Oh I’m sorry to hear that. And I thought my raccoon problem was bad.

  2. Perhaps you should put your least favorite goat out in the chicken coop. Or purchase a goat.

    Rifles are still legal in bc, right?

    • Rifles are still legal but using them is now questionable! The painful part of this situation is the fact that we FINALLY have a conservation officer again in the valley after being without one for so long. Once again though, there seems to be a reluctance on the part of the Ministry to act in support of the landowner.

      Kristeva

  3. It’s pretty ridiculous that goat death or electric fence death warrants grizzly death, but chickens or fruit trees for that matter – nevermind general public safety – do not. Their ‘rule book’ would be an interesting read.

  4. workingcollies

    How many people are tempted by the “shoot, shovel and shut up” rule? It seems like these policies just encourage people to take the situation into their own hands. And if neighbors are all in the same boat, then they cooperate and say “what gunshot? I didn’t hear any gunshots.”

    My great grandmother was in that boat on her homestead, she said they just thought “whatever” about the game laws. They were just trying to survive, and poached constantly just to put food on the table and keep their meager livestock resources safe! I guess we’ve come full circle in some places, where people are back in that situation and faced with the same choices. Ugh, I feel for you!
    Michelle

  5. Dawn

    I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles. I hope everything works out for you. Be safe!!

  6. ej

    Sorry for all involved. But ” inevitable” means inevitable.

    Hope you and all Bella Coola dwellers can find your footing again. Fire and floods! That’s a lot to deal with.

  7. I’m so sorry! You have had a rough go this year, it seems. That is a frustrating reality to deal with. all the best!

  8. Gillian Sanders

    Hi Kristeva,
    I have homesteaded (fruit trees, honeybees, goats, chickens) in grizzly country for 15 years without conflict. I posted something about successful electric fencing on the food systems network and after my friend told me about the blogs, here I am responding:

    You write well, but take too much time to get to the point and you have lots of opinions that you present as facts.

    The facts as I see it are:

    1. yes, our food systems are f*****d up and we need to produce our own food.
    2. our competition with wildlife has lead to the depletion of populations worldwide (especially large predators).
    3. we can coexist with bears who are not heavily food-conditioned. yes, if you take away human foods from heavily food conditioned bears, they may break into houses to get food, but managing attractants does prevent bears from becoming food-conditioned.
    4. to keep bears from becoming food-conditioned, we need to manage attractants, including livestock, feed, and fruit trees. There are inexpensive tools available to do this i.e: did you really pay $22,000 for a chicken coop?!?!? The cost for electric fencing a chicken coop is less than 5% of this, yet you claims that e-fencing is expensive…
    5. yes, coexisting with bears may include detering bears from communities, but this is impossible without attractant management.

    Cheers,
    Gillian

    • Hello Gillian,

      You are able to live in Kaslo ‘without conflict’ because Kaslo (and most of British Columbia) does not have nearly the population of grizzly bears nor the concentration that Bella Coola has. I would dare say you live primarily in black bear country. Yes, there are grizzlies in many areas of British Columbia, but they are not in the numbers that we deal with in Bella Coola and that is the difference. It’s a big difference. It is not unheard of for my neighbours to have 5 or 7 grizzlies in their yards at one time. Not only that, but they did not move off even when fired at with high powered rifles by two men standing shoulder to shoulder. This has happened on numerous occasions and in more than one yard. Where else in BC do people have those kinds of experiences or statistics? Certainly not the Kootenays.

      To address your questions:

      1. I never said that electric fencing was expensive. What I am saying is that to erect a fence that is both grizzly bear and cougar proof (yes, we deal with those regularly too) all the way around my property is out of reach.
      2. Yes, my chicken shed cost me over $22,000. What an odd question. Do you think I am lying about that? And, I made it as skookum as I could in order to try to PREVENT problems. And yes, it now has an electric fence around it.

      I am glad to see that you agree that we are in competition with the bears. Many people do not understand that. However, I do not agree that the solution is only to ‘remove’ the attractants. If you seriously believe that then you must also accept that we cannot have food security. In terms of food security, the idea that we must ‘remove all attractants’ to prevent bears from entering our communities is a dangerous line of thinking. If we ascribe to the notion that humans can control bear behaviour by ‘removing the attractants’, then you are prohibiting humans from raising their own food. Fruit trees, berry bushes, carrots, and parsley all attract grizzly bears. Chickens, ducks, sheep, goats, and rabbits, all attract grizzly bears. The duck feed, the goat feed, and the chickens’ corn all attract grizzly bears. Fields of corn and oats attract bears. Beehives attract bears. (Many of the above also attract a host of other predators that threaten our food security, such as eagles, foxes, wolves, cougars, mice, owls, hawks, martin, weevils, and so on.)

      If we are to be consistent with the ‘remove the attractant’ theory, then the next ‘logical’ step is to pass public policy laws that forbid people from raising their own food. In order to ‘remove all the attractants’ we will have to cut down all the fruit trees, plant no vegetable or herb gardens, and get rid of all the feed and grain for our agricultural animals–chickens (see Needless Suffering), ducks, geese, goats, pigs, turkeys, sheep, and so on–lest we be seen to be ‘baiting’ the bears. Instead, maybe we could free range our agricultural animals? No. To be consistent with the ‘non-attractant theory’ we must leave it to the corporate agricultural producers who can afford (both ethically and financially) to keep animals indoors, behind Fort Knox type fenced areas, or on feedlots.

      I am vehemently opposed to feed lots and the animal suffering (not to mention the degradation of human nutrition) and that is the orientation from where I write. I write from a position of community development and food security. This is not one farmer’s problem and it should not be thought of as such in terms of finding a solution. If I fence my farm and make my yard/animals safe then that just pushes the problem around my yard. What then happens to the children who are standing on the southwest corner of my property waiting for the bus every morning? They come face to face with grizzly bears walking around the fencing. Is this really the solution you propose?

      No. The solution to this problem does not lie in my hands, or in my fencing my yard. The solution lies in the community waking up to the reality that we are in competition with these animals and that we have to talk about boundaries and borders. Human settlements must be safe for humans to live in and the boundaries outside them can be delineated for the bears, wolves, cougars, etc to have. We cannot live in ‘harmony’ with large predators and allow them to have access to our communities, period. It is simply not safe for them or us, or them. It is a ridiculous notion and a dangerous fantasy and not one that is doing either side (animals or humans) any favours. We need to establish borders where humans can live safely, grow their food, raise their children etc, and defend them from the wild creatures who attempt to move in.

      Kristeva

      • Gillian Sanders

        Hi Kristeva,
        thanks for your response and for the interesting conversation. I need to point out that I never said ‘remove’ attractants.
        I said manage attractants. There is a big difference and is the reason that I felt I needed to respond in the first place.
        There is no way to create the boundaries you speak of while human foods are available to bears. This does not mean to remove the human foods, it means to make them inaccessible. While these foods are available to bears the conflicts will continue.
        I also am deeply opposed to animal suffering created by industrial agriculture, which is the reason why I raise my food as much as possible and support my community to do the same. Electric fencing is the only deterrent that I’ve found that works consistently every time, even when guard dogs are sleeping by the fire or encounter a bear(s) that knows that most dog’s barking has no follow-through.
        I also never said live in harmony, which I agree may be an unrealistic romantic idea. I said to coexist, meaning that both humans and grizzlies live and conduct their activities to support their lives while not coming into conflict.
        Managing attractants is the clearest way to reducing conflicts, and this seems to only be able to happen one household or farm at a time. I would love to find a quicker solution, but each place makes up the community. When the attractants are unavailable, then deterring bears from human settlements can be of use. There is no point in trying to deter bears from available food sources, especially in years of poor natural food production. Their stomachs will over-ride their wariness.
        Hope we can talk in person one day, and good luck,
        Gillian

      • You said:”Human settlements must be safe for humans to live in and the boundaries outside them can be delineated for the bears, wolves, cougars, etc to have. We cannot live in ‘harmony’ with large predators and allow them to have access to our communities, period. It is simply not safe for them or us, or them. It is a ridiculous notion and a dangerous fantasy and not one that is doing either side (animals or humans) any favours. We need to establish borders where humans can live safely, grow their food, raise their children etc, and defend them from the wild creatures who attempt to move in.”

        Applauding wildly from the Kootenays.
        Did you know that Susanna Moodie, in 19th century Ontario, commented that the wildlife seemed thicker around the homesteads, because there was so much easy food around? An old timer once explained it to me as follows: “In the old days, the only people who went into the bush were prospectors or hunters and trappers. They carried GUNS. These days everybody and his brother goes into the bush and they carry LUNCH. You think the animals haven’t figured that out?”

        • Hello Len,

          You know. Little known or acknowledged fact. When ‘white man’ first came to the USA/continent, the natives moved their settlements CLOSER to the whites because the knew they would be safer! This fact is documented in old texts. The idea that Indians/First Nations lived ‘in harmony’ with their environment is, to some degree, a contemporary fantasy.

          I have read the Susanna Moodie book but many years ago. I’d forgotten that story!

          cheers,

          Kristeva

    • Carolyn

      Get yourself a KARELIAN BEAR DOG! You don’t have to have more than one GOOD one to do the job right!

      • Hi Carolyn,

        Under some circumstances a Karelian bear dog would be helpful. However, they won’t stop a cougar. The dogs aren’t sufficient when bears are accustomed to dogs and they are determined. Some acclimatized bears have learned that the dogs are all bark and no action and climb right into the fruit trees and destroy them while the dogs bark themselves into exhaustion.

        They work well for in habituated bears only.

        Kristeva

        • Carolyn

          Really…I have read in prior post that you are acquainted with The Wind River Bear Institute. Perhaps it would be to your greater advantage to contact them and inquire as to having a KBD trained for your particular needs; they aren’t just for barking bears away! Owner involvement with training is necessary, to be effective. They are an amazing, loyal and extremely intelligent breed.

  9. ET

    Sorry to read that your are getting yet more rain and evacuations in Bella Coola. I hope you, neighbors and animals are coping.

  10. As an Australian, I feel like I cannot really comment, as I’m so far removed from the reality of bears in my neighbourhood.

    Yet, I don’t see this as a win-win situation from afar either. If there’s a net loss of food supply in a bears natural diet, they will suppliment via man made food supplies.

    I cannot help but ponder what happens when everyone gets the idea to cut off attractants with electric fences – surely the bears would just become more desparate?

    It’s not like they have a natural food supply to return to, is it?

    • G’day Chris,

      Welcome to the blog from down under! Yes, the bears have plenty of natural food supply in general. After all, the forest (as distinct from our farms) is the bears’ natural territory. They are perfectly suited to live in this area, and the area suited to them. The forest here is full of wild berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, salmon berries, thimble berries, and many more), fruit trees like wild cherries, mountain ash, and others, along with roots & tubers, and many species of grasses which the bears also feed on. As for protein, they have ant hills to feed from, fish in the rivers, and smaller animals for the taking, though that is less common. It is not uncommon to see a bear sitting with its legs around an ant hill, ants crawling all over the bear, and the bear licking his lips, paws, and body to get at the ants, or fishing in the rivers. You have to be careful here if you are a fisherman!

      cheers,

      Kristeva

      • Hi Kristeva and thanks for sharing that info. I was figuring there was a food shortage in the bear’s natural territory, driving the bears into people’s backyards.

        I’ve read your other posts on bears and it seems to be specifically about territory. We get the same thing with crocodiles in Australia. If they’re caught hanging around spots humans are known to frequent the water’s edge, they promptly get relocated. It’s just the way crocs are known for hunting. They stake out places they know potential prey is likely to access the water, they wait and then they catch you unawares.

        I guess I see the parallels now with the bears in your neighbourhood. You don’t want that kind of opportunistic hunting instinct around human settlements. It just becomes a matter of “when” the right human prey opportunity arises for the carnivore.

        I also think I have to mention that bears and crocs have vast differences in their hunting styles, so perhaps it’s not fair to compare them. Crocs will pretty much try to drag anything that approaches the water edge, into the water, where as bears seem to be more particular in what they like to eat.

        Or do you see that changing now?

        • Hello Chris,

          I’m glad you read my other posts on bears. Many who come to the blog to comment don’t. I can tell by their comments that they haven’t when they presume I am advocating shooting bears as the only option for management or suggest relocation as a option (it doesn’t work).

          Interesting thoughts and parallels on the crocs. I too am not sure there is a comparison here specifically but certainly in general there is. That is to say, neither of these species (bears or crocs) should be considered a species that humans can coexist with in their settlements. I would presume there are few (if any) folks in Aussie who think that it is possible to let crocodiles reside in their midst! (Are there? Does a fierce debate exist about letting them come close to human settlements and having it be the home owner’s responsibility to protect themselves and their properties from the crocs?) I presume not. I wish the similar sanity existed here in Canada. Unfortunately, many, many, folks (even my neighbours) believe we can coexist with large predators in our settlements. Somehow, because we are dealing with ‘cute’ animals (whereas you are dealing with green, warted, ugly, prehistoric looking creatures), people do not have a very realistic view of them. There is very much a ‘if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you’ myth that is alive and well in the minds of many and that clouds people’s reasoning skills. Unfortunately, most people believe what they want to believe is true. They don’t want to believe that a bear might decide to eat them. On that note, to answer your question about their hunting style. There has been a change in black bear behaviour in some areas where they are beginning to predate on humans (again, not many want to acknowledge that fact as it doesn’t fit with the cute, cuddly, version of bears they have in their minds). Sadly, we are in an era where the thinking is that somehow humans are responsible for controlling the bears’ behaviour. That if you get attacked then somehow YOU must have done something wrong. It is, quite simply, an insane way of thinking about a human-predator encounter and one that is likely to cause more deaths.

          Do I think it a privilege to have these creatures in the wilderness here in Canada. I certainly do. But, what we have to come to terms with is this issue of territory (which sadly, I don’t see happening in the near or even distant future). People need to understand that we are in competition with animals (all wild animals) for territory and that if we want these magnificent creatures to have a space to survive then we have to delineate that space for them and not encroach upon it. The answer is NOT to let them encroach upon ours. This is not a well understood concept. I can tell because I continuously hear things like, “but ‘we’ are in ‘their’ territory”. As if humans only belong in cities and that cities have always existed and haven’t, and don’t, continue to displace animals.

          Sadly, because most people now obtain their food from the grocery store and their food production is out of sight and out of mind AND pretty much guaranteed, they no longer see the reality of our continued existence. I dare say most people would understand the need to spray pesticides to protect their wheat crops from weevils yet these same people will turn the other cheek when it comes to mammalian predators. For a farmer, they are the same: they are a threat to our crops and our livelihood. The only folks I have met who understand the cycle of life and the realities of predator pressure are farmers.

          I often wonder when engaged in this debate with well meaning but misguided folks that if every time a bear showed up at their property they lost 30% of their annual wage, if perhaps their ideas might change. Only people with full bellies and access to grocery stores for the majority of their food can afford to believe we are not in competition with wildlife for human existence and territory.

          cheers,

          Kristeva

          • You’re right about the crocodiles. They’re not tolerated near human settlements close to water. The debate about crocs in Australia, only seems to arise when a person is taken by one and it makes it to the national news.

            If it’s an adult, then it seems to be more tolerated by the community. If it’s a child though, then a water search is issued and a croc will almost certainly be hunted down – if not a few.

            Having grown up in a croc region, I know the local people feel differently to how it’s perceived nationally. I don’t live in croc country any more, but I know the mentality doesn’t change. Deaths and near misses from crocs, do shape a community’s sense of boundaries.

            So it’s with great intrigue I watched the Steve Irwin saga unfold. Are you familiar with Australian, Steve Irwin who was nicknamed, “the crocodile hunter?” I like Steve, I think his love for crocodiles and animals in general was very inspiring. As a former croc-country resident however, I also see his showmanship as potentially dangerous.

            Steve was often shot on film, alone with dangerous animals as part of his hero-like persona. He was also very good at what he did so he didn’t need anyone else in the shot. However, we now have a generation of children who aspire to be wildlife warriors, without possessing the knowledge and respect for animals, Steve had.

            The only reason I bring this up, is to demonstrate how easy it is to raise the status of a particular animal, while at the same time, promoting we can live with them.

            People who get taken by crocs, generally don’t see it coming. So for all the showmanship about how magestic these animals are, and how they need to be protected – it’s the people who get taken by crocs (and their communities) who deal with the real end of the nasty stick. Showmanship is just for show. If you want to live you learn the rules. Which is never approach the water’s edge alone – or approach the same spot more than once.

            A society which expects people to know exactly how to behave around animals, while promoting how wonderful they are – in reality, aren’t dealing with the nasty end of the stick.

            It’s really just postponing that experience for someone else, who didn’t know how to behave anything but human within a human settlement.

            As a community, that should bother us. It’s simply not possible to educate everyone – especially kids, and at the end of the day, you’re dealing with a potentially lethal animal.

            I can see your dilemma.

  11. There is a reason why there is such a high population of bears where you live. Partly, it is a resource-rich area that can support a high population of bears, but mostly, they haven’t been killed or driven away as in most other settled areas. (For better or worse, depending on your point of view.)
    The central coast of B.C. has been settled for maybe 150 years (by whites), and sparsely settled at best. And it was not for farming that the settlers came; they wanted fish and logs, and bears were never seen as competitors, just pests. Like most pests, they were shot when they became a problem.
    Coexistence? Ha! Only someone raised in a city with no experience of bush life would suggest this. As someone who grew up close to bears and worked in the bush for many years, I can say that they are fascinating animals, but if you think that your community will thrive with bears roaming around it….
    A gentle suggestion: if you really want to farm, if you aren’t driven to stay there because of the downright majestic beauty of your place (it is pretty there), then set up shop elsewhere. The central coast isn’t really farming country anyway, it rains way too much….

    Peace,
    Sal

    • I just reread my post and it seems to me that I am coming across as pretty arrogant. I don’t mean to be, apologies if anyone is offended. I am new to internet culture (true!). By the way, Kristeva, are you even on the coast? You should be in the same time zone as me (I’m in the Gulf Islands), yet you are posting as several hours ahead. Am I just confused?

      Sal

  12. Ellie Archer

    Hi Kristeva,

    As your neighbor, I would like to thank Gillian for posting an intelligent response from an area which faces similar bear issues as we do here in the Bella Coola Valley. I have to disagree with you when you say that the Kaslo area does not deal with the same challenges relative to bears as Bella Coola; both areas have high densities of black and grizzly bears during the spawning season, and both communities have mostly rural residents with fruit trees, garbage and gardens.

    It seems to me that dealing with the attractants would be much more efficient and safe than continually shooting all bears coming in to a never ending supply of attractants. The CO’s are so busy dealing with poachers and polluters, and it’s not their job to “guard” our property from bears, it’s our responsibility to take reasonable steps to protect our property, and then the CO service is there if we need more help.

    Just some neighborly thoughts….

    Ellie Archer

    • Hello Ellie!

      I encourage you to read the whole five part series on bears then you would understand that I do not say that the only way of managing the bears is by shooting. It would also help you understand my position on attractant management which is underpinned by food security and animal welfare.

      cheers,

      Kristeva

  13. brendan

    Although your blog-post is out of date, count me among the supporters of Gillian’s comments. I have read some of your other bear posts.

    The longer you live around bears, the more you will eventually learn about their changes from year to year, and season to season. If there has been a crappy berry year (or salmon year on the coast), you can expect them to be seeking out more desperate sources of food around humans at particular times of year. Rather than being evidence of problematically habituated bears, it is evidence of a temporary problem. These same bears will not tend to be a problem the following year.

    They are smarter than you think. It is not just “habituated” versus “non-habituated”.

    In the Kootenays, where Gillian is from, you can be sure to have bears around the house well into June and early July following a particularly heavy winter, when food is scarce. These same bears will not bother you the next year, when there is alternate food. Nor will they bother you the rest of the year.

    If we assumed every bear that resorts to people during desperate times was a “problem bear”, and shot them, there would be a lot of dead bears for no reason.

    • Hello Brendan,

      While your comments seem logical, the evidence and literature does not support your theory. At least not here. I have lived with the same grizzly bear in my yard for six years. Sadly, she was shot by a neighbour in 2009. She and I had an unwritten understanding (she brought her twin cubs each couple years to the yard as well). Now, that she is gone and no longer guarding her territory, an new bear has moved in to it. Now, I have a younger boar grizzly in the yard wreaking havoc.

      If you read the literature on bears put out by our own Bear Smart people (not to mention the books by Gary Shelton-who actually lives here in the Bella Coola Valley, and Stephen Hererro–a bear biologist and academic from Alberta), you will learn about the differences in the bear behaviour between habituated and non-habituated bears and the differences in methods of dealing with them.

      Fundamentally, this discussion is a territorial issue of human rights, habitation and safety: We should have the right to grow and protect our own food source; we should defend the borders of our communities (keep the large predators from entering them); and we should keep our communities and their inhabitants safe.

      How we achieve the above should be the only question.

      Kristeva

  14. Hi Kristeva,

    I’m sorry to hear of your predicament with Grizzlies last year… what a challenge it must be to homestead in Grizzly country. Here in southwest Nova Scotia we don’t have issues with bears, but Coyotes and Red Foxes are a threat to free ranging chicken flocks. Last year we lost Our only Jersey Giant Rooster to a fox. The animal has unbelievable confidence stalking our birds and those of our neighbours in broad daylight. For now, we have resorted simply to allow the birds to range when we are out on the property, all other times they are in their fenced run. Trying to co-exist with wildlife of any kind has its challenges. I hope you are able to find a solution!

    • Hello Gordon,

      Yes it is a challenge! One that I’m less and less enthusiastic about facing on a daily basis. I’ve found that if I want to be serious about growing all my own food that I’ll have to leave the valley because of the situation here. The predators and competitors for our food here are too many and we are left with too little support. It is one thing if you have money and the resources to just go out and buy the food they destroy which is what most people do (and thus they don’t understand the real cost of these issues). But if you are a serious provisioner (aka homesteader) then you cannot do it under these circumstances. We must be allowed to protect our food but the political and social climate does not support that seriously yet.

      I’d love to see your side of Canada one day! I just watched a program on the Irish famine and the immigration to Canada (Nova Scotia) last night. It was devastatingly fascinating.

      Kristeva

    • PS. Do you have a dog? When I had a dog I lost no chickens to foxes (we don’t have coyotes though down here).

      • Hi Kristeva,
        If you’re ever down our way, feel free to drop in for a visit. As for the dog… we don’t have one yet but it is on our list. The fox in question doesn’t seem to be troubled by dogs. Our neighbour has two (yellow Lab and a Golden Retriever), and she lost an earlier flock to a fox… mind you, the dogs are grown up. and she has yet to lose one of her free ranging banties to the latest critter. We are now blogging some of our experiences as well at sleddinghill.ca/blog I have to say that the past year nad a half has been quite a ride for us…. what with the drive from Vancouver, and setting up the house/homestead here. So far, so good!
        Cheers,
        Gord

  15. Ugh. What a horrible experience.

    I suppose in the past, homesteaders would’ve waited up for the bear and ate him to make up for the lost chickens. It’s ugly to have your survival systems get taken out by forces of nature beyond control. In the Nashville flood a year ago, my garden was completely destroyed and washed downstream. After picking baby sweet potatoes out from beneath a mat of vegetation piled against my neighbor’s shed, I decided I’d had enough… and move to a nice, flat, sandy state.

    • Hi Dave,

      It was a horrible experience! And, along with other incidents that gave me pause, has caused me to rethink staying in Bella Coola Valley. The reality of living a homesteading style of life just isn’t possible under such adversity. Of course, it is if you have a job that can pay for new chickens, re-fencing, rebuilding the chicken coop, and to replace the food that has been killed and/or otherwise eaten by those other than yourself! It is also too sad to lose your hand hatched girls and boys to the tooth and claw of grizzly bears, cougars, and foxes, etc. So, I too have packed up and moved to a less predator riddled part of the country. Wish me luck!

      Kristeva

  16. There should really be allowable measures to deal with that bear, especially for its own good. I think out West, they tranq and move problem bears before they have a chance to cause real trouble.

    On the mean side, the community should have had a baseball-pitching machine aimed at that bear’s head the second time he raided a coop. (I was thinking tear-gas grenades or a low-injury pipe bomb laced with capsasin, but those would have harmed the livestock.) Make it think that getting kicked in the head by a moose is preferable to poaching your farms.

    A kinder note may be for someone to plant self-tending crops in the bears’ territory so that there is no desperation involved when they raid farms. I think here, there are small fields of corn that belong to the deer.

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