How to Keep Bears & Neighborhoods Safe
Bears stalking our streets have become a growing problem in a number of regions of the US, thanks to habitat destruction. As human land uses sprawl outwards from cities and suburban areas, wildlife have narrower ranges to call home, and that pressures them right into human neighborhoods in search of food and shelter. Some of the most terrifying wild visitors to human neighborhoods are bears, who have been known to take an amble, or a shamble, through the road in search of food or a cozy place to take a nap.
Wildlife officials approach the problem on a larger level, taking steps to protect habitat, humanely relocate bears, and make human environments safer in the event of human-bear encounters. But there are also some steps individuals can take in order to make living with bears safer for both them and the bears, balancing the need for habitat with their desire to be able to safely traverse the neighborhood.
Bears come into human communities for one simple reason: their habitats have shrunk, and they’re looking for food sources. Humans happen to make a great food source, because we have a tendency to drop all kinds of delicious things into the garbage, and we often don’t secure our waste very well, making it a cinch to muscle open — and when we do implement security, it may not be enough to deter smart and dextrous animals like raccoons.
Ideally, the best way to live with bears is to minimize encounters with them, because you’re unlikely to get into conflict with them if you don’t meet them. That means supporting habitat conservation efforts and working with wildlife officials on tracking, identifying, and relocating bears, but it also means making your community less enticing to them. That starts with creating a very secure area for compost and garbage, one with fences strong and high enough to keep animals out, and a locking mechanism complex enough that smart problem-solvers can’t get around it.
You should also secure your garden area, if you have one, because bears and their woodland pals love produce as much as you do, only they’ll make a mess of the garden going after it. If you keep bees, chickens, and other microlivestock, you should make sure they’re cozy and secure too — work with a fencing expert or handyman as needed to create secure areas to keep your animals and plants alike.
The solution doesn’t begin or end with you. Work with your neighbors, too. If some of your neighbors are older adults who don’t have the physical ability to work on bear security measures, ask how you can help. Reach out to landlords if you have renters in the neighborhood to stress the importance of updating their rental units to make them more hostile to bears and other wildlife (you may want to appeal to concerns about liability issues and property damage to sway them if they’re not convinced). For neighbors who might not have a lot of spare time to spend on retrofitting their properties to secure them against wildlife, offer to help out, or refer them to the professionals you’re using to help you get bear-safe.
It’s also a good idea to carry bear spray in the event of an encounter gone wrong, and to learn how to use it. Practice removing the safety cap in an emergency and spraying it steadily at the bear until it vacates the area or you get to safety. Make sure members of your family know how to use it and check the cans regularly to ensure they’re in good working order.
Ultimately, it will be hard to keep bears out entirely, but taking proactive steps can increase the safety of your community. Regional wildlife officials may have additional tips or requests for you to help you make your community safer from bears, especially in cities like Denver, where the wildlife problem is particularly marked. Denver carpenters and other building professionals are particularly familiar with bear security tactics and can work with you to create a safer home and neighborhood.
Photo: Florida Fish and Wildlife/Flickr.