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Bear Fence

Updated parts list: May 23, 2014.

In my area, our apiaries need to be protected from black bears.  Over the years, I’ve developed a simple and effective electric fence design.  You can download a pdf of plans and photos here: Bear Fence PDF

Updates to add to the PDF

Update Nov 2017–after seeing an excellent presentation on bear fences in British Columbia, I now recommend spacing three wires, at 9, 18, and 27 inches (or low enough to clear your private parts when you step over the top wire–up to you).

Update Sept 2017–We’re changing to a stronger spring on our larger bear fences–Hillman #194 (8-3/8″ long, 5/8″ outside diameter, .062 wire gauge; available from True Value and on line).  Very slightly tension these springs when you tie the poly rope to them–we are very impressed by their performance.

In my local, bears move uphill in synch with ripening fruit (late Aug), thus bringing them in contact with our apiaries (this occurs every season).  Some bears completely tear apart the boxes and frames.  Others are as skilled as any beekeeper at prying the boxes apart and pulling out the frames one by one.
New or young bears often explore our unfenced temporary apiaries.  They may knock over a few hives, and perhaps open one.  If they get a nice snack, they will return.  If not, they will move on, since the pain of the stings was not worth the scant reward.
But if that bear gets a meal of brood and honey, it will generally return night after night, pushing right through a weak shock from an electric fence.   This calls for a “training,” in which I lay small pieces of bacon along the bear’s approach trail, culminating at the hot wire, upon which I hang a juicy strip.  Below this strip I roll out 2′-wide chicken wire and attach the ground wire to it.  One sniff or mouthful is all it takes to train that bear for years!
Mostly, previously-trained bears will not try to cross our white poly hot wires, even if the ground is dry and there is virtually no shock.  We like to have trained bears in the area, as they will drive away others.