Bears in Agricultural Areas

              
     
Photo credit:
Bill Bryne, MassWildlife
 
     

In eastern North Carolina, farmers are bears’ best friends, especially during late summer and early fall. The feeling is not always mutual. Here’s how to encourage bears to stay in the woods and leave your crops alone.

Crops

If bears have not yet damaged crops:

Allow legal bear hunting during the bear season. Benefits of hunting include:

  • Hunting helps locally manage bear populations.
  • Hunting bears is the best use of this natural resource.
  • Suitable harvest levels can have positive impacts on future crop damage issues.
  • Dollars from bear hunting leases can be used to mitigate crop damage losses.

If hunting is used to prevent damage, hunters should be asked to take any legal bear – sows without cubs, bears larger than 50 lbs., and boars. Killing only “large” male bears will not effectively manage the local bear population.   

The bear CAN become the landowner’s best friend- it only requires a change in perception on the part of the farmer and landowner!

Plan planting locations for crops to reduce chances of bears visiting. For example, surround a peanut crop with cotton, and plant crops well away from wooded areas.

When planning crop rotations, select crops with no food value for bears and plant them in those areas where potential bear problems lie or where bear problems have occurred in the past.

Don’t try to control bears by putting out food in other areas of your property; this just attracts bears that may become acclimated to people, resulting in other nuisance situations affecting you and/or your neighbors.

Monitor crops on a frequent basis to determine when damage first occurs.  When damage is first noted, immediately employ non-lethal techniques such as fencing or propane cannons.

If bears have damaged crops:

Allow legal bear hunting during the bear season. Benefits of hunting include:

  • Hunting helps locally manage bear populations.
  • Hunting bears is the best use of this natural resource.
  • Suitable harvest levels can have positive impacts on future crop damage issues.
  • Dollars from bear hunting leases can be used to mitigate crop damage losses.

If hunting is used to prevent damage, hunters should be asked to take any legal bear – sows without cubs, bears larger than 50 lbs., and boars. Killing only “large” male bears will not effectively manage the local bear population.   

The bear CAN become the landowner’s best friend- it only requires a change in perception on the part of the farmer and landowner!

Keep in mind that most crop damage situations are short-term in nature and occur during small “windows” of time based on crop maturity and availability.  Harassment activities should take place just before and during the time when the damage is occurring.

Chase bears doing damage with bear hounds. Before usinghounds, make sure it’s legal in your area and legal during the time that the bear is doing damage. If the damaged crops are near highways or homes, chasing bears may not be a good solution.

Scare bears with automatic gas cannons, streamers, balloons, fireworks, flashing lights, or radios left on all night. Start with simple materials already on hand.  Alternate non-lethal techniques frequently to keep bears from becoming acclimated.

Fencing: String single-strand, polytape-electric or other suitable fencing along the most exposed side or area of fields, or around small fields.

In small garden situations, high chain-link fencing can provide a permanent solution to preventing crop damage.

Take WITHOUT a permit... North Carolina General Statute 113-274 (c)(1)(a) allows landowner or lessee of property to kill bear in the act of destroying or damaging the landowners’ property. The bear must be in the act of destroying property, and the kill must be reported to a local wildlife enforcement officer within 24 hours.

  • Bears taken without a permit must be disposed of in a "safe and sanitary manner" on the property where they were taken.
  • Bears may only be taken on the property of the landholder.
  • The killing and method of disposition of wildlife taken for depredation without a permit shall be reported to the Wildlife Resources Commission within 24 hours following the time of such killing.
  • Landowners or lessee of property who anticipate using this option should contact their local Wildlife Enforcement Officer (WEO).

Take WITH a permit...A state Depredation Permit is required for taking bears causing damage, except under the conditions mentioned above. To obtain a depredation permit for bear, contact the Division of Wildlife Management Office (919) 707-0050, your local Wildlife Biologist, or Enforcement Officer.

  • Depredation Permits are free of charge.
  • Each permit must be issued to the landholders, but a second party may be listed to actually take the wildlife causing damage.
  • Permits will list species, county, specific location, property damaged, number to taken, expiration date, method used, and other restrictions.
  • Bear taken under a Depredation Permit must be reported on the form provided.

North Carolina General Statute 113-274 (c)(1)(a):
(1a)   Depredation Permit. – Authorizes the taking, destruction, transfer, removal, transplanting, or driving away of undesirable, harmful, predatory, excess, or surplus wildlife or wildlife resources. The permit must state the manner of taking and the disposition of wildlife or wildlife resources authorized or required and the time for which the permit is valid, plus other restrictions that may be administratively imposed in accordance with rules of the Wildlife Resources Commission. No depredation permit or any license is needed for the owner or lessee of property to take wildlife while committing depredations upon the property. The Wildlife Resources Commission may regulate the manner of taking and the disposition of wildlife taken without permit or license, including wildlife killed accidentally by motor vehicle or in any other manner.

Livestock, Fish Farms:

North Carolina has experienced very few conflicts between livestock and bears. But implementation of proper husbandry practices will minimize, and likely prevent, potential problems with both domestic animals, such as feral dogs, and wildlife, such as bears, foxes, and coyotes.

If bears have not yet harmed livestock:

  • Store feed in sturdy buildings with secure doors. Be sure to keep doors secured and closed at all times. Once bears find food inside the building, they will continue to attempt to gain access.
  • Supplemental feeds should be stored in bear proof containers and/or storage room/building.  Supplemental feed should not be left out overnight.  Thus, feed only the amount the animals need for that day.  
  • Avoid pasturing animals in remote or heavily wooded areas.
  • Quickly dispose of carcasses of dead animals and fish in accordance with regulations.
  • Dispose of waste grain/spilled grain quickly, even in areas where there are no established bear populations. This will prevent conflict with other wildlife that will be attracted to the grains, such as raccoons and small rodents.
  • Don’t try to control bears by putting out food in other areas of your property; this just attracts and conditions bears to humans.
  • Pen animals near or in a barn at night, especially expectant females. Clear areas of all signs of birthing.
  • This will clean up any spilled food on pond dikes/dams/shoreline immediately after feeding.  Automatic feeders should be suspended over water or mounted on a bear proof pole.

If bears have harmed livestock:

  • Erect electric fencing immediately before there is time for second visit.
  • Use trained bear dogs or guard dogs.

Related Information

A bear in your town? Click here to find out why & how you can help!

A bear in your neighborhood? Click here for a downloadable PDF of tips on living with bears in your area.

WRC will typically not trap and relocate bears. Click here to find out why? 

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