What To Do Wednesday: Issue #5

What to do to keep bears out of your yard.

Photo Credit: jessleephotos.com / Defenders of Wildlife

Photo Credit: jessleephotos.com / Defenders of Wildlife

By this point, most people will be well aware that bears are out and about again. As we highlighted in an earlier post, living with bears (and all carnivores) requires that we make a number of changes to our lifestyle and behavior in order to safely coexist. It was recently brought to our attention, however, that there is an often overlooked bear-human safety issue: lawns & gardens. Things like bird feeders, carrying bear spray when recreating, and proper trash and food storage get a lot of attention (rightly so), but it may not be particularly obvious that something as subtle as your lawn can be a major bear attractant. Hence, we believe it is worth discussing how to keep bears out of your yard.

Black and grizzly bears are both highly omnivorous, with over 50% of their diet coming from plant matter such as wildflowers, roots, tubers, berries, and nuts. So, we really shouldn’t be surprised that they are equally enticed by Kentucky bluegrass, dandelions, clover, or those delicious raspberry plants in your backyard. The appearance of bears in residential areas in the urban-wildland interface has become such a frequent event that some state agencies have developed “bear unwelcome mats” to deter bears from snooping around yards and homes.

A grizzly in Yellowstone chewing on grasses.

A grizzly in Yellowstone chewing on grasses (USFWS).

As populations of humans and bears continue to increase and come into contact more frequently, it becomes necessary to think of innovative and more effective ways to prevent conflict. So, without further ado, here are some tips to “bear-proof” your yard:

  • Avoid planting Kentucky bluegrass or clover. If you have it, keep your lawn mowed and weeded.
  • If you have a garden or fruit-bearing trees, fence them. Electric fencing might be needed to adequately protect them from bears.
  • Flowers and other fragrant plants, while they may not be “food rewards,” are certainly bear attractants.
  • Don’t compost outside – bears don’t mind rotting things!
  • Keep deer and other small mammals away – where prey go, predators are sure to follow.
  • Enjoy those backyard BBQ’s responsibly! Always keep an eye on the food, clean up afterwards, and store your grill indoors.

For more information on living with bears and other wildlife, visit your state wildlife agency’s website or check out this great document from Defenders of Wildlife. Special thanks to Wyoming Game & Fish for publicizing this issue and providing us with additional information.