It finally happened. We live in the woods and have seen bear poop in our yard many times. I’ve always been worried about bears, and every time one leaves evidence of having visited our yard, I start bringing out the pots and pans and banging them when our dogs go outside.
As a chicken mama, I’ve been especially worried about our chickens. Of course, I worry about all predators, but since our neighbor has been seeing a brave black bear all summer, I figured it was just a matter of time before the bear paid us a visit. Yesterday, we finally had that visit, but it came in a way that I didn’t imagine at all.
We had just finished lunch, and I heard a commotion outside. I heard a strange noise and thought it was the strangest chicken noise I had ever heard. When I looked out the window, at first, all I could see was chickens huddled against the fence in full freak-out mode. And then my eyes moved toward our mobile chicken coop.
There, standing in the red coop, up on his hind legs, was a black bear. My brain wasn’t even sure what I was seeing, but when I got the words out that we had a bear in our yard, my husband was up and out the door. I followed him out to find the bear still standing over our coop. It looked like he was trying to pick up chickens, and my heart was broken thinking of those poor chickens being hurt by the bear.
It wasn’t a big bear. I mean, it was big enough to make me really worried, but it was a young bear. It was also a brave bear. When my husband ran out toward the coop, the bear just kind of casually got down out of the coop and slowly started walking around the fenced area he had just jumped into.
I have to admit that the bear was really adorable, and even though I was on the phone trying to get in touch with the game warden, I was also wishing I could get a picture of this whole ordeal, especially after I realized all of our chickens were safe.
It turns out the bear was just eating the chicken food and must have been just trying to shoo away the chickens when I saw him waving his arms at the chickens.
After speaking to the game warden, I learned that no one was going to come and relocate the bear. This was a surprise to me, but bear visits this time of year are quite common. It’s been dry, and yearling bears, like the one who visited our coop, are hungry. Apparently, they are also brave.
“I can’t believe the bear was just out there in the chicken coop in the middle of the afternoon,” I said to the game warden.
“If a bear’s hungry, he doesn’t care what time of day it is,” he replied.
Good point, I thought.
Chances are our bear will be back, though we did move the chicken food in the hopes that this will help. Still, there’s not much we can do. We can’t close up the chickens right now, and they do have to have food and water. So we will keep a watchful eye.
But what should you do if a bear visits your coop? My talk with the game warden inspired a little research.
- The best thing you can do is try to prevent a bear being lured into your yard. It’s been a dry summer, so if you live in bear country, it’s best to remove your bird feeders. You should also keep your trash put away and never leave chicken food out at night or exposed. The smell of the chicken food is a big attractant.
- If you do have to feed animals outside, be sure to always clean up throughout the day and especially at night. If you have bird feeder, bring it in at night and rake up any extra seeds on the ground.
- Keep your animals and food secured within a fence if you can.
- If you still see a bear like we did, make a lot of noise to try to scare it away. Banging pots and pans is supposed to work. Our bear was pretty nonchalant about the noise we were making, but I think black bears are supposed to be pretty shy in general. And, still, even our chill bear wanted away from us and took off across the street and back into the woods as soon as he could.
- If a bear keeps coming around or if you encounter an aggressive bear, call 911.
Apparently, it’s very expensive and time consuming—and not even that effective—to try to relocate a bear, so that is done only in extreme cases. And, of course, the hope is to not have to hurt a bear who is “just trying to make a living,” as my husband puts it, so the best way to deal with bears is to do your best to avoid attracting them to your property.
The game warden said there’s a good chance our bear will be back—but not for long. When the blackberries come, the bear won’t be so hungry for chicken food. I’m thinking that should be pretty soon. I hope we don’t see our bear again. I don’t know how lucky our chickens would be the second time.
Thankfully, however, for now, no chickens were harmed in the making of this story. And, if you want more information on how to avoid black bear encounters and what do when an encounter can’t be avoided, check out this helpful information from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.