Protect your chickens, bees, livestock, crops, and orchards from black bears

Black bears are common in western and central Massachusetts and expanding their range eastward. Take action to prevent and address agricultural damage from bears.
Electric fence around beehives

Use electric fencing to protect chickens, bees, and small livestock

  • Set temporary or permanent electric fences to safeguard your chickens, bees, goats, sheep, and other small livestock. Be sure to keep weeds from growing and shorting out the fence. Learn how to properly install an effective electric fence
  • Keep the power on at all times and be sure to regularly check and maintain chargers or batteries. Be sure to test your fence and ensure it is putting out 6,000 volts.  
  • Do not place fences next to trees. Bears will climb the tree and then jump down inside the fence.  
  • Bait the electric 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, it’s nose. An unpleasant shock to the nose is the most effective way to teach the bear to avoid the area. 

More ways to protect your chickens, bees, and small livestock

  • A standard coop or pen will not keep out a bear. Electric fencing is the most effective way to protect your chickens, bees, and livestock from bears.  
  • Keep open, mowed areas on all sides around hives, chicken coops, and pens. Do not set up coops or hives in abandoned areas or close to overgrown areas. 
  • Avoid pasturing livestock or placing coops and hives in abandoned or remote areas, close to wooded overgrown areas, or areas with wooded gullies or other pathways bears may use. 
  • Do not leave carcasses of dead animals exposed in fields. Bury or incinerate them. 
  • Livestock feed attracts bears. Store feed in secure outbuildings protected by electric fencing or in a bear-proof container. Avoid feeding livestock in a confined pen which a bear may enter. 
  • When possible, pen livestock in or near a barn at night. Avoid field-birthing if possible, or clean areas by removing any afterbirth. 
  • Do not place supplemental foods nearby as a distraction. This can attract or habituate bears and is counterproductive. 
  • Consider the use of guard animals. 

Protect your crops and orchards

  • If feasible, use electric fencing to protect corn and other crops and orchards from bears. Noisemakers, such as propane cannons, may be effective in some circumstances, but the bears may become used to them or simply move to another field. 
  • Keep open, mowed areas on all sides around the crops. 
  • When possible, cut back the vegetation on wooded overgrown gullies that bears can use as pathways. 
  • Alternate corn with other row crops to provide less food and cover. 
  • Pick tree fruit as soon or even before the fruit is ripe and pick up fallen fruit that make an easy meal for bears and other wildlife. 

Additional tips

  • Contact local bear hunters to hunt your property. Contact your local sportsmen’s club or nearest MassWildlife District Office for help connecting with bear hunters. 
    • Note: According to Massachusetts law, landowners who allow the use of their property for recreation without charging a fee are not liable for injuries to recreational users of the property, except in cases of willful, wanton, or reckless conduct by the owner (MGL Ch.21 Sec.17c). 
  • Farmers that are interested in hunting bear on their property during the regulated season may be eligible for a Farmer/Landowner permit. Learn more about the Farmer/Landowner permit

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 should 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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