A bear’s fondness for honey is legendary. The stuff even sits in little plastic, bear-shaped dispensers on grocer’s shelves. It the perfect bear food, too – protein is available as bees and honey produces carbohydrates. It’s a source of food that’s particularly desirable in the spring when hungry bears leave their winter dens.
With more than 45,000 bee colonies in Colorado, apiaries are big business. As every bee keeper knows, where there’s honey, bears aren’t far behind. In one night, a hungry bear can do at least $3,000 of damage. During peak feeding season in late summer, bears are “eating machines,” consuming up to 20,000 calories a day as they bulk up for winter hibernation. It’s that kind of potentially enormous economic damage that gives the Colorado Division of Wildlife a massive headache.
The Division is responsible because the Colorado legislature passed a law in the1930’s that requires the state to reimburse property owners for damage caused by big game. It’s why more than 100 solar electric fence energizers are needed to keep bears out of Colorado beehives.
“The fencing program is multi-purposed; to prevent damage and to protect bears,” said Phil Ehrlich, a game damage prevention technician with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Montrose, Colo. Noting that a hungry bear is both resourceful and intelligent, he said, “These bears have wised up and are going to get in any way they can. With an electric fence, we can educate bears and keep them out of trouble.”
The Division of Wildlife gives beekeepers a “semi-permanent” electric fence which can be set up to protect an area from 400 square feet to 1600 square feet. A Gallagher system powered by a solar energizer is used for the toughest, high-risk situations where they have an existing problem, especially the 40 by 40 yards or larger
Since Ehrlich began working with electric fences, no Gallagher products have been returned. “You pay a bit more, but they work,” he said.
“Bears can be tough, persistent, intelligent and aggressive animals when they want something,” Ehrlich says.