JACKSON, Wyo. — Bears are an integral element of a wild, undeveloped landscape and a balanced, thriving ecosystem. The reasons that we love the West so deeply — plentiful wildlife, lush forests, clean air, pristine water — are the same things that bears require to survive. They’re a part of the neverending and intricately-balanced system, and protecting them serves not only their species, but countless others.
Within the multi-faceted network of plant, animal and insect species that are native to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, bears play a variety of roles. In addition to breaking down organic matter — from logs they tear apart when hunting insects, to consuming carcasses of prey animals — bears distribute a massive variety of seeds and help maintain other species through predation.
Known as an “indicator species,” bears serve as a thermometer of ecosystem health. Bears require a variety of habitats and species surrounding them; if bears are healthy, that indicates the overall health of an ecosystem. Managing for the health of bear populations, then, is inherently managing for the best interests of countless other species — including humans.
Finally, bears have substantial economic value to our community. Wildlife enthusiasts, tourists, photographers, and others pay significant sums of money to visit our region and see bears in the wild. Consider all of the businesses that benefit from their visits — it’s a long list. Many parts of our economy are enhanced by living alongside bears.
How can you help protect bears? The easiest way is to ensure that bears can’t find food sources on your property — because once they become accustomed to finding food around humans, they must be relocated or worse: killed.
Keeping a bear-safe property — What is a bear attractant?
Ensuring that your property is bear-safe is easy! There are a handful of things that tend to attract bears. A bear’s sense of smell is 7 times more powerful than a bloodhound’s, making it 2100 times stronger than the average human’s sniffer!
Keeping a bear-safe property means securing or removing anything around your home that a bear may be able to smell and access.
Some of the most common attractants include: compost piles, fruit trees, dirty grills (especially grease traps), beehives, chicken coops, gardens, pet food, livestock feed, and…
The #1 attractant for bears? Garbage!
Just imagine all of the tantalizing scents oozing from your garbage can… scraps from last night’s BBQ, a slice of stale birthday cake, a chunk of moldy cheese, that watermelon you forgot was in the bottom drawer… probably doesn’t smell great to you , but to a bear? That’s the scent of a dinner bell!
Fortunately, there’s an easy way to make sure that your trash is safely out of their hands (er, paws). Bear-resistant trash cans are self-locking and built of sturdy material to prevent bears from accessing anything in your garbage can — no matter how irresistible it may smell.
Bear-resistant can only work if they aren’t overfilled. If you pile too much trash into the can, the lid will not be able to latch properly, and it won’t keep a bear out. (Same goes for dumpsters — overfilling them is a recipe for an unwanted bear visit.)
How does electric fencing work? Why is it important in deterring bears?
For larger areas that need to be accessible to bees, livestock, or people, electric fencing is an excellent solution. When a bear gets a zap, it doesn’t cause any lasting harm, but it does negatively condition the bears. In other words, it teaches them that bees and chickens are off-limits. In the future, whether they get a whiff of your chicken coop or someone else’s, bears will associate the attractant with a less-than-pleasant shock.
Best practices for fruit trees, gardens, and compost
When it comes to harvesting all of the beautiful produce that your garden generates, make sure to do it as soon as possible. The same goes for fruit trees and shrubs — the sooner you’re able to gather up the ripe fruits and vegetables, the less chance a bear has to discover them.
Naturally-occurring fruit (like serviceberries and chokecherries) can be left on the plant, but be aware that bears could be attracted to them, and may stop by your yard to enjoy them when they’re ripe. (This is usually in a 2-3 week period in late summer/early fall.) If you’re not comfortable with that, consider removing fruit-bearing plants, especially if they’re close to your house.
Compost should be kept in a bear-resistant container, and be sure to maintain a balance of “green” and “brown” material. If the compost smells like dirt (not rotten food), you’ve got it right! If it doesn’t, add some more brown carbon sources like grass clippings, leaves, or other yard debris to help minimize the smell.
JH Bear Solutions — The answer to a problem
Do you need materials or assistance in securing bear attractants and making your property bear safe? Call JH Bear Solutions — we’re here to help however we can.
A program of Wyoming Wildlife Advocates, JH Bear Solutions started to provide subsidized bear-resistant trash cans to residents and businesses in Teton County and the Town of Jackson. JH Bear Solutions seeks to remove barriers and improve access to bear-resistant trash cans for all residents of Teton County — regardless of their financial status. We aspire to empower all residents to adhere to local regulations as well as take responsibility for their part in living alongside bears.
Let us empower you to protect our wildest neighbors — and keep property, people and bears safe.
Please contact JH Bear Solutions at: