Spring is here and that means bears are coming out of hibernation. Are you prepared? We're all looking forward to spring and so are New Jersey's Black Bears. Black Bears have become more prevalent in the Garden State as development has encroached on the bears traditional habitat. It is time to consider protecting your hives from bear damage and it has been said that there are few areas in New Jersey that are not in danger of potentially seeing even a random bear on occasion. The New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife indicate that bears have been confirmed in all 21 counties of New Jersey and continue to push southward and eastward from their densest population in the Northwestern quadrant of the state.
According to data from the NJ Division of Fish and Wild Life Bear Activity Report, 8 protected hives were damaged in 2011 and 14 unprotected hives were reported to encounter bear incidents.
NJ Div of Fish and Wildlife Bear Protection
Michelle Smith, a biologist with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife presents a session on how to protect your apiary from Black Bears.
Black Bear Biology and Behavior (source NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife)
Black bears have a remarkable sense of smell. They have been documented detecting scents at more than two miles away from a food source. Black bears live in mixed hardwood forests, dense swamps and forested wetlands. They prefer areas with dense cover. In New Jersey, excellent bear habitat is found primarily within Sussex, Passaic, Warren and Morris counties. However, as the bear population increases, black bears are expanding their range both east and south. Black bear sightings have now been confirmed statewide. Bears are highly adaptable and can live among human development.
Things you can do to protect your hives
- Place bees away from natural habitats. Bears need water and will follow water sources. Keep hives away from field edges, densely wooded areas where bears have cover and streams.
- Keep the hives out in the open and in full sun. As noted in the NJDEP report above bears prefer cover so keeping grass mowed around hives and keeping brush down could discourage bears from coming out into the open.
- Employ an electrical fence with strands close enough that bears can not push through without getting a snout full of electricity. Do consider bating fences so bears get a taste of the electricity, otherwise bears could just back through and knock down any fencing with their dense fur coats.
- Keep your fence operational and well maintained. Bears will test fences and if they find it compromised the will get through and damage hives. They are adept at getting through broken or poorly maintained fences. Grasses and other weeds growing through a fence tend to lessen its ability to be effective and could ground it out altogether.
Getting Assistance from the NJ Division's
Wildlife Control Unit
The Division's Wildlife Control Unit is available to provide on-site assistance with fence construction to those interested in installing electric fencing to prevent bear damage to beehives, agriculture crops and livestock. For more information, contact the Division of Fish and Wildlife at 1-877-WARN DEP (1-877-927-6337).