Local workshops to focus on managing bear attractants, electric fencing

Next week, the Defenders of Wildlife, in partnership with the Department of Fish and Game, will host a series of workshops on bear awareness and electric fencing — running Monday through Friday, April 1-5, in Hope, Seward, Kenai, Soldotna and Homer.

On Monday, April 1, a workshop will be held at the Bear Creek Lodge in Hope. A workshop will be held on Tuesday at the Breeze Inn in Seward. Wednesday’s will be held at the Kenai Chamber of Commerce in Kenai and Thursday’s is in the Soldotna Public Library in Soldotna. The final workshop will be held Friday in Homer at the Homer Public Library. The workshops will all be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. except for Friday’s in Homer, which is instead 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Organizer Isabel Grant, with the Defenders of Wildlife, said last week that the event will cover managing bear attractants, how bear-resistant electric fencing works, and how to get financial assistance from Defenders of Wildlife to purchase and install that fencing. The Defenders of Wildlife offers an incentive program that can reimburse local property owners and residents up to 50% or $500 spent toward purchasing and installing electric fencing.

The goal, Grant said, is to reach anyone with a bear attractant on their property to prevent and “reduce conflicts” between bears and humans. Attractants can take a lot of forms, like backyard chickens, bees, gardens, compost bins or grills. There’s no requirement for people to previously have had any experience with bears in the past.

The goal is to deter bears from encounters with people and from shifting away from their natural diets.

“Every time a bear takes food from human areas, they learn that behavior,” Grant said. “They can associate food with people.”

Electric fences are a viable solution to the problem because they create “a physical and a psychological barrier,” an incentive not to return.

This is the third year that the workshops have been held locally, and Grant said the turnout has been increasing year over year — that they’ve been able to get “a lot of interested people” to follow up and get involved.

“We do want to have bears around,” Grant said, because they play a significant role in local ecosystems. “We want them to be engaging in their natural behaviors.”

Anytime bears are eating anthropogenic — or human — foods, they aren’t engaging in those natural behaviors.

The reimbursement program is available to people who live on the Kenai Peninsula or Southeast Alaska. Grant said that beyond the workshops, they ask people to reach out via defenders.org/got-bears, because there are material requirements to qualify for aid — the group wants to ensure that people put up fences with the correct energy outputs to be effective.

For more information, including to get involved with the Electric Fence Incentive Program, visit defenders.org/got-bears.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.