"Being good shepherds of bears involves making [your food, your pet's food, the bird feeder, the garbage can] unavailable to bears, but it goes further than that. It also involves learning enough to know that it's okay to be 'top dog' to a bears. It doesn't 'insult' a bear to be put in its place; this happens to them most days with other bears, already. Not letting a bear graze in your front yard isn't 'harassing' it; it is merely asserting your personal space, something bears totally understand. You don't have to like bears to do these things; understanding these simple principles can help keep them out of your way, as well as saving their lives." Anne Braaten, biologist, North Cascades National Park Service Complex
There are several tools available on the market today to help you keep curious or hungry bears away from you and your home, business or campsite.
There are lots of things you can do to deter a black bear from approaching or hanging around your property. But grizzly (brown) bears are an entirely different matter! Do not attempt to deter a grizzly bear on your own — get yourself to a safe location and call a conservation officer immediately. (Click here to learn how to tell the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear.)
Some in situ deterrents automatically provide negative feedback to bears when they approach your property or specific attractants, such as bee hives or fruit trees. Others are manually deployed, helping you to deter a bold or aggressive bear's approach with noisemakers, flares, pepper spray or projectiles. Some of these tools can help trained professionals to effectively haze or aversively condition bears.
No matter which tools you choose to protect yourself and your property, use direct eye contact and a take charge ATTITUDE!
And always ensure that the bear has a clear and safe avenue of escape with no people or obstacles in its way. If it has no way to escape, it may interpret your efforts to scare it away as an attack and stand its ground in self-defence.
Varying your technique each time a bear attempts to return to your yard works better than always using the same deterrent. Bears catch on quickly if everyone does the same thing, get used to it and soon ignore it.
A well-aimed stone can help drive your message home. Aim at the bear's rump; never throw stones directly in the bear's face. Stones should not be larger than a golf ball.
A soup can filled with pebbles and taped shut makes an effective noisemaker. Shake it vigorously as you yell at the bear to leave, and then, perhaps, throw it beside the bear. These work particularly well in areas where bears may already encounter rattlesnakes.
Big beach balls tossed at bears often scares them off, as do opening and closing an umbrella, shaking a big tarp or garbage bag, or banging pots and pans.
If a bear climbs up a tree to escape, yell at it and beat the base of the tree with a baseball bat or heavy stick. Keep them up there for a while, smacking the tree and yelling at them. It really scares them. After they've been picked on for a few minutes, go back inside your home, let them come down and watch them tear off.
Hand-held marine flares
Hand-held marine flares are a great tool for wilderness use. They are an effective bear deterrent and can also be used as a beacon for rescuers in the case of emergency. Hand-held flares are effective because they affect more than one of the bear's senses – sight, smell and hearing.
This is the preferred bear deterrent used by bear viewing guides on the Alaska coast. Choose a flare that ignites by pulling a string rather than by striking. Be careful not to drop flares in dry conditions until they are fully extinguished as they can be a fire hazard if not hand held.
If used properly, signal flares do not inflict any physical pain, harm or lasting discomfort to the bear.
To purchase red handheld flares, click here.
Signal horns can be an effective means of scaring bears away. They are small, light and easy to use, perfect for backcountry or home use.
The Falcon Supersound weighs just 1.5 oz and emits a piercing blast that can be heard up to 1/2 mile away. It's 100 per cent ozone safe and non-flammable, and contains approximately 200, two-second blasts.
To purchase: contact Kodiak Wildlife Products Inc.
At home, black bears can be deterred with something as simple as a high-powered squirt gun. Fill any Super Soaker water gun or similar product with water (or a bit of vinegar diluted in water) and aim directly for the bear's face. Please do NOT use any other liquids or chemicals other than water or diluted vinegar. Don't aim directly into their eyes.
Always use deterrents from a secure vantage point that provides the bear with an easy escape route. When using this or any other deterrent, display a dominant body posture and use a stern tone of voice to ensure the black bear receives a clear message. This lets the black bear know he has invaded your territory and is not welcome.
Can be purchased anywhere toys are sold.
Turning a garden hose on a bear can also be very effective. Unlike most physical deterrents, it is best to blast the bear in the face with the water.
Bear pepper spray is the most effective means of repelling an attacking grizzly or black bear in a non-toxic, non-lethal manner. Although common sense might suggest that guns would provide greater personal protection, research and experience indicates that human-bear encounters that do not involve firearms are less likely to result in injury to a human or bear.
According to a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report, law enforcement agents and experienced hunters who use firearms to defend themselves suffer injury about 50 per cent of the time, while people defending themselves with bear spray escape injury most of the time and injuries that did occur were less severe (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). University of Calgary's Dr. Stephen Herrero found similar results. This is why bear spray is often carried in the backcountry by biologists, professional guides and hikers/campers.
The aerosol can shoot bursts of atomized capsaicin (a red pepper derivative) up to eight metres, though the spray is most effective at short range. It is ideal for personal defence use when hunting, camping, fishing, hiking and biking or whenever enjoying the great outdoors in bear habitat.
"Even a skilled marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun." - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Not all bear sprays are the same. Ensure that you are using a bear deterrent spray, not a personal defence product designed for use on people or dogs. Follow the directions and check the product's shelf-life. Try to carry at least two canisters per group.
Nothing can replace good sense and proper safety measures. People whose activities may possibly put them in a situation where they may encounter a bear or other wild animal should educate themselves and be aware of the potential for an attack.
Warning: the spray is explosive and extremely flammable and should be transported in an appropriate carrier. When transporting bear spray, always make sure the safety is securely in place and will not fall out. Bear spray should never be transported inside the passenger area of any vehicle or airplane unless in a fully sealed, enclosed container.
Get more detailed information.
Scare Cartridges and Launchers
Signal cartridges (bangers, flares and whistling screamers) are practical, inexpensive, easy-to-use and very effective bear deterrents. Signal cartridges can be fired from pen launchers or pistols. Both systems are highly effective, so the system you choose is simply a matter of personal choice. Signal launchers are easier to carry in a backpack, but pistols are often used by wildlife officers because they can carry multiple rounds.
Pistols come in single-shot, double-shot, revolver and semi-automatic models. The single-shot Record, which uses 6 mm regular blanks, is the most popular and economical model. Multi-shot revolvers and semi-automatics hold up to 10 rounds and can launch more than one cartridge. Quick draw holsters provide fast deployment and easy, safe carrying. The launchers can be pre-loaded with blanks (primers), drawn from holster and loaded with cartridges as required. Also, the rapid firing of emergency signal flares can be accomplished by these launchers. These products provide the first step in non-lethal bear control.
If you'd rather not use guns and things that go bang, you can always try the ever-reliable slingshot. Unlike old slingshots, the laser slingshot hits targets with pinpoint accuracy. Wood balls, constructed from environmentally friendly, biodegradable material, are the ideal pellet to use with the laser-sighted slingshot.
Don't use projectiles larger than a golf ball, and don't aim at the face to avoid taking out an eye. Instead, aim at the rump of a bear.
If you don't have a slingshot handy, you can always just throw stones at the bear's rump - again don't throw stones at the bears face or vital organs and ensure the stones are smaller than a golf ball.
Unwelcome mats are basically boards full of upward-pointing nails placed in front of doors and windows to discourage bears from entering buildings. They are simple and inexpensive to make.
Safe, effective bear unwelcome mats are easily constructed from materials available from your local Hardware or Farm and Ranch supply stores. You may even have all the supplies you need in the tool shed. Build a mat from plywood and nails/screws or electrify your mat. A properly constructed, installed and maintained electrified unwelcome mat will delivers a short, non-lethal, deterring shock when the bear steps on it.
Download the instructions.
Electrified mats, like cattle/horse guards, can also be effectively used as an unwelcome door/window mat to deter bears from entering buildings. Ready to use and easy to install, they are available at Gap Zapper.
NOTE: The electrified mat must be grounded. This can be accomplished by placing the mat on the ground (i.e. not on a wooden deck or concrete/asphalt); or by placing two mats side-by-side such that one grounds the other. Be aware that bears can jump over large spaces, perhaps even up to 10 feet, but that shouldn't be a concern if the mat is in front of a door or window.
Metal Grates, that are very rough, can also be used to deter most bears from using an area. Metal grates must be wide enough so that the bear can not step or jump over them (see note above). However, if the caloric value of the food is great enough, bears may be willing to tolerate the discomfort to get the food reward. In this case, an electrified mat is a much better option.
This device is hooked up to a normal garden hose and mounted in the ground. When the motion detector senses movement, the Scarecrow sprays a 3 to 4 second burst of water and then resets itself. The spray head can be adjusted from 10°- 360° to cover a small or large area and has a 35-foot range for flexibility in placement. The Scarecrow is simple to use, safe and inexpensive.
To purchase, visit SmartHome.com or google "Scarecrow Animal Repeller."
Rex Plus Barking Dog Alarm – The Electronic Watchdog
The Rex Plus Barking Dog Alarm scares off bears or other intruders. Rex is a barking dog that resides in a small box kept on your counter when you're not home. It operates by radar and knows when a bear (or a burglar) is attempting to enter a house. If a bear comes too close, Rex barks viciously and stops as soon as the bear runs off. He is on guard as long as he's plugged in, barking when the bear is too near and quiet when the bear is gone. The BEAR League in Lake Tahoe tested this unit and says, "Rex works great and never needs to be fed, watered or walked." Nonetheless, bears may become acclimatized to the sound over time and may not be deterred from the area, or they may not react at all to a recorded "bark".
To order online, just google "Rex Plus Barking Dog Alarm" or check with local retailers that sell pest control or security products.
Of course, a well-trained pet dog or working dog can be much more effective when deterring bears from your property. Read more here.
The Critter Gitter detects animal movement up to 13.5 m (40ft) away using passive infrared, body heat or motion detection and then emits ear-piercing sounds and flashes lights. This detector has been designed to change its sound and light patterns with each intrusion and automatically reset itself.
One of the disadvantages of the Critter Gitter is that bears may become acclimatized to the sound and lights over time and no longer leave the area. However, an advantage is that the device alerts homeowners when a bear is around so that they can take the appropriate action. Keep in mind that the Critter Gitter will be triggered by any animal, including a raccoon, cat, dog or coyote that passes by the sensor, day or night. This disturbance may not be acceptable to neighbours.
To purchase: contact Kodiak Wildlife Products Inc.
Bear Be Gone
Bear Be Gone has been designed to resemble a garbage can. The bear receives a shot of pepper spray in its face when it tries to take the bait, teaching bears to avoid both garbage cans and specific areas.
Flashlights, torches, flashbulbs and other bright lights may also been used to deter bears at night, but little information exists in the literature about the efficacy or best methods for these techniques. At minimum, visual deterrents will serve as a warning that an intruder has entered the property. Residents who are receiving nocturnal visits from bears may be advised to install motion sensitive outdoor lights. Ensure the lights are very bright and are aimed outward from the building, so that the light is shining directly at the approaching animal - this often makes animals feel less secure than when under the cover of darkness.
Solar Nite Eyes - a device that deters nocturnal predators. We're not 100% sold that it would work with bears, but it's guaranteed - you can return it if you're not fully satisfied. www.solarniteyes.com. Read an article about the product.
Although it may sound complicated and expensive, electric fencing is actually a relatively simple and cost-effective way to secure bear attractants that cannot be removed or otherwise contained. Electric fences are easily adapted to a variety of situations – beehives, fruit orchards, hunting and backpacking camps, grain sheds, livestock enclosures, landfills, even high-use visitor areas and campgrounds – and are relatively easy to maintain and economical to build. Please see our electric fencing page for more information on this useful tool.
Bear Alert Alarm System
The same system can improve the effectiveness of your electric fencing system. The alarm is activated when the bear touches the hot wire. The bear receives a shock which causes a short on the fence wire, simultaneously tripping the siren. This system comes complete with alarm control box and siren. It can be rigged with any alarm device (i.e. lights, security monitors, etc.) that is triggered by a switch closure.
To purchase, contact Margo Supplies Ltd.
Trip Wire Fence System
The trip wire fence system is effective in detecting intruding bears or other wildlife. This compact system is simple to set up and operate, and may be the most practical solution for fly camps and other situations that preclude the use of electric fencing. When a bear trips the wire, a loud alarm sounds, frightening the bear and alerting campers to its presence. This lightweight (16 lbs.) system comes complete with 10 fibreglass posts, wire hangers, 200 metres of trip wire, alarm controller, siren and 12-volt power supply.
To purchase, contact Margo Supplies Ltd.