Protect your bees and chickens from black bears

Black bears are expanding their range in Massachusetts. If you keep bees or own chickens, take precautions and avoid damage from bears.

Best practices

  • Set temporary or permanent electric fences to safeguard your hives and chickens. Be sure to keep weeds from growing and shorting out the fence. Keep the power on at all times and be sure to regularly check and maintain chargers or batteries. Do not place fences next to trees. Bears will climb the tree and then jump down inside the fence. Teach bears about electric fences by placing bacon strips or foil strips with peanut butter or honey on the hot wires of the fence. This delivers a shock to the most sensitive part of a bear, its nose. A painful shock to the nose is the most effective deterrent. Be sure to test your fence and ensure it is putting out 6,000 volts. Review the Electric Fencing Guide and contact your MassWildlife District Office for advice on electric fencing.
  • Keep open, mowed areas on all sides around hives and chicken coops and pens. Do not set up chicken coop or hives in abandoned areas or close to overgrown areas.
  • Do not locate chicken coop or hives in abandoned areas or close to wooded overgrown areas.
  • Do not place supplemental food nearby as a distraction. This can attract or habituate bears and is counterproductive.
  • Contact local bear hunters to hunt your property. Contact a MassWildlife District Office or a local sportsmans’ club for help connecting with bear hunters.
  • In some instances, permitted houndsmen may use bear hounds to chase bears away from bees, chickens or crops they are damaging. This relief may be temporary. Contact a MassWildlife District Office or the Massachusetts Environmental Police at 1 (800) 632-8075 for more information.

Additional Resources

Property damage

  • If you are (or anticipate) suffering property damage caused by a bear, please contact the nearest MassWildlife District Office right away. MassWildlife biologists will provide you with advice that can lessen the problem.
  • Under certain circumstances, landowners, tenants, members of their immediate families, or persons permanently employed by them may kill a bear that is caught in the act of damaging their property. When authorized, lethal measures against bears may only be employed in accordance with provisions of Chapter 131, Section 37, Massachusetts General Laws. Bears taken in this manner must immediately be reported to the Environmental Police at 1 (800) 632-8075. A written report detailing the number/species taken under Sec. 37 must be submitted by January 31 of the following year.

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