February 13, 2024

Electric fences help protect bears and people

Electric fences have proven to be an effective solution for keeping bears away from campsites and livestock in the wilderness areas surrounding Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. These areas provide ideal habitat for a growing population of bears, which can be a dangerous nuisance when they become hungry and start scavenging for food.
Mark Bruscino, a bear specialist with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, understands the challenges of dealing with these intelligent creatures. He acknowledges that bears are skilled at finding ways around most preventative measures, including knocking down barriers and tunneling under fences. However, since the introduction of electric fences in the early 1990s, the situation has improved significantly.
Bruscino praises the effectiveness of electric fences, particularly when properly maintained. The Game and Fish Department now utilizes both permanent and temporary Gallagher fences. Permanent fences are installed in areas where bears are a constant problem, such as campgrounds. Temporary fences can be quickly erected around locations like grain bins until the bear can be safely relocated.
The permanent electric fence setup consists of a five-wire fence with high tensile strength wire. To ensure full conductivity, alternating hot and ground wires are used, especially in dry conditions. The fence is anchored by wooden corner posts and supported by fiberglass posts. The bottom three wires are spaced six inches apart, while the top two wires have a 10-inch gap, creating a bear-proof barrier.
Despite numerous attempts by bears to breach the fence, Bruscino estimates that they have had little success. In most cases, the bears simply spin around and retreat. Even when a bear swatted at the wire, it only stretched it slightly, proving the fence's robustness.
To prevent bears from tunneling under the fence, Bruscino incorporates a woven wire ground that extends about three feet from the fence line. This additional deterrent helps protect beekeepers' hives, goat herds, and ensures the safety of campers who can now sleep soundly with only a few yards of canvas separating them from the outdoors.
Gallagher, a prominent manufacturer of electric fences based in North Kansas City, Missouri, emphasizes that electric fences are effective psychological barriers for both farm animals and wild animals. The fence's strength lies in its design, tailored to the specific species it aims to control, and its ability to withstand the harsh winter conditions that prevail in the Rockies.
By employing electric fences, farmers can protect their livestock from predation and wild animals, preventing economic losses. The success of these fences in keeping bears at bay is a testament to their efficacy in mitigating human-wildlife conflicts in wilderness areas.

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