Protect your crops and orchards from black bears

Black bears are expanding their range in Massachusetts. Here is everything you need to know to protect your crops and orchards from black bear damage.

Overview

  • Use temporary or permanent electric fences to safeguard your crops and orchards. 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.
  • 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.
  • Contact local bear hunters to hunt in your fields. The early September bear season coincides with the peak of bear-caused crop damage. 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 crops or orchards 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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