lindseyinevergreenApril 22, 2010

So, I'm just getting settled into Colorado and having fantasies about all the fun things I'd like to grow... here in Evergreen everyone is cynical about growing anything as the deer, elk, raccoons, bears, foxes, etc. have made it difficult.

We are building a deer-fenced garden area, which will allow me to grow many things without fear of deer, elk, etc. getting to them, but I am concerned about bears. We have one that hangs out in our area in the summer and I don't want it to get in the habit of being around our house as we have a 10 month old.

Will a typical 8 ft deer fence deter bears? And if not, what plants are they partial to? I read somewhere on the forum that they love pumpkins, so that's out. :( What about huckleberries and other berries? Tomatoes? Should I just stick to herbs and flowers?

If anyone has bear experience, I would be appreciative of guidance.


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Dan Staley

Berries are a bear-y magnet. Ahem. Well, you should have a veggie garden. You have a fence, which is good. You might think of electrifying it, not that expensive. Don't use fish emulsion or other fragrant things like that in the garden. Harvest right away. Do an enclosed compost pile. I'd avoid corn and maybe melons too. They raid at night so kid danger is at a minimum. They scare easily so maybe one of those sprinklers that activates with motion from Aug-Sept. A dog.

No reason to avoid a garden just because of bears. You just have to do extra work.


    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 1:20PM
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Skybird - z5, Denver, Colorado

Hi Lindsey,

A couple things I'm thinking of right now! Don'tÂunfortunatelyÂput out any bird feeders. The seed could attract bearsÂand other wildlife besides birds. And don't feed pets outside, or store pet food outside.

And Dan's suggestion of an electric fence is a great one! For deer, all you need is a single wireÂat a deer's nose heightÂto keep almost all of them out. My brother, in Illinois, on 25 wooded acres, protects his LARGE veggie garden with two electrified single strand wires run around the whole thing. The "deer wire" is at nose height, and when the deer walk up to check out the situation, and hit the wire with their nose, it sends them scurrying fast! After doing that the second and third times, they rarely come back to do any more checking. (He has enough deer, BTW, that people actually hunt them on the most heavily wooded part of the land during hunting seasonÂwithout his permission!)

And the "other" wire is for the small crittersÂespecially rabbits for him, so that one goes at bunny nose height, and works the same way. And itÂs still easy to get into the garden, because you can step over the low wire while youÂre ducking under the high wire!

Every now and then heÂll find deer tracks in the veggies in the morningÂbut not very often. And plants that grow flat on the groundÂun-staked tomatoes, cukes, squash, etcÂcan also be covered with "bird netting," and the deer canÂt effectively eat "thru it," so it helps a lot too, but you still get some "trampling" if you use just the netting. He uses both! I guess you could use nets over other things too, but at some point it becomes very "inconvenient" to be trying to pick things! Your high wire fence should work pretty well, and I second getting some electricity around it too.

HeÂs never mentioned racoons, tho I know there are some around there, so maybe the low wire helps with them. Not sure! But your high fence should keep them out. They could do a lot of damage if they got in

And I donÂt want to scare you, but you might get an occasional mountain lion out there too. They even make it down here to the plains sometimes! At least they wonÂt be eating things out of your garden, but if you have a dog and hear it barking, check it out! It could be a lot of different things itÂs barking at out there. ButÂoh, how beautiful it is out there!

I assume you know that there are lists of deer "resistant" plants. NO plant is deer PROOF, as a lot of people around here will tell you, but if youÂd like links to some of the deer resistant lists (not veggies!), IÂd be glad to post some here.

Sorry! DonÂt have any bear resistant lists! LOL


    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 2:38PM
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david52 Zone 6

They seem to only become serious pests for gardeners in the fall, when they're stuffing themselves for the winter. Melons, particularly ripe/over-ripe ones, will bring them in from afar. Fruit trees are the same thing - pick up the wind falls that smell. 2nd the recommendations to keep the fish emulsions and pet food and humming bird feeders and other stuff out of the yard.

As far as fencing, we have a couple of resident bears around here in the fall, and they have yet (knock on wood) come through my deer fence. But I think they could if they wanted to. Last year we had one go right through the standard pasture fencing, which is 4 ft of field fence topped by 3 strands of taut barbed wire, as it wasn't there, being chased by hounds.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 3:48PM
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Thanks everyone. That is all great advice... now to crack the whip on the hub to get to building our fence! Thanks!

    Bookmark   April 22, 2010 at 7:47PM
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I live at the end of the road at 7400' in the San Juan foothills near Vallecito Res. Our game warden neighbor tells me we have more bears in our immediate area than almost anywhere. I saw my first of the season last night while hiking my Siberian huskies. Two summers ago, a mountain lion killed a calf elk within 150 ' of my front door.

I've had no problems with bears inside my garden that has an 8' high fence (that's the height you need for deer and elk). I did have some spaghetti squash growing through the fence one year that were bitten into and ruined by a bear. I don't grow melons or corn because of my elevation and that helps.

The deer and elk are thick in here and present the real challenge, especially from late June until the monsoon arrives. Deer repellents help but aren't perfect. Without that fence, the only way I could enjoy my garden would be to shoot and eat the deer that ate my veggies. Last year, they not only ate the tops of my unfenced garlics, they pulled them out of the ground!

I am an avid and lifelong outdoorsman (I'm 58 now). I hunt, hike, climb, fish and collect high mountain mineral specimens every chance I get and have never had a threatening encounter with a bear. I did have a mountain lion follow me for a mile or so while deer hunting once as proved by my return hike in fresh snow. Violent human/wildlife confrontations are rare and your greatest concern should be with a small child in mountain lion country.

By the way, I am terrified of just two things. High mountain electrical storms and cities.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 9:45AM
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LOL - Mark, I share your fears... :) Yeah, I know that I have much more to fear from mountain lions than bears re: my kiddo, but I didn't think there was much I could do to keep them from coming around, whereas I know that foods and strong smells, etc. will attract bears, who come and knock down our garbage cans just 15 minutes after we put them out on trash day in late summer... didn't want to encourage them any more. We did have some mountain lion tracks mixed in with our tracks in the snow right outside our house late Feb... I just try to keep aware of my surroundings... don't know if there is much else I can do about them.

It is good to hear that you haven't had any problems with bears getting into your fenced garden, and that they haven't destroyed your fence, which was my thought, having seen what black bears can do to cars with food in them in Yosemite... there is hope. :)

Yeah, I'm with you on the deer and elk... I'm not even going to try before I build that fenced area... they are thick here until mid June, and then again full-force during the rut in September...

Thanks again, everyone, for the great information!


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 12:20PM
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nancy_in_co(z5 CO)


I get the bears too - but mostly in early spring and Aug to Oct. They have never touched the squash but they do love pumpkins so much so that I no longer grow the big ones. And they always took a bite out of each one. I would have happily given them a few if they had left me a few. But no - they took a bite out of each one!

They do love fruit. I have had them in the apple and peach trees - where they no only eat the fruit but they also break a lot of branches. And they are even worse than the racoons in the grape vines.

Putting up fencing to keep them out of my yard isn't feasible so I just modified my behavior. The pumpkins and grape vines are gone and the fruit trees get picked as early as possible.

Personally, I find the deer and racoons much bigger pests than the bears.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 1:02PM
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david52 Zone 6

We get mountain lions coming through, and there is sort of a natural wildlife corridor over my south fence, thats where they pass, and will often spend the day hiding in the tall grass, fallen trees, and over grown stuff. I dunno how to properly explain it, but you'll *know* they're around - I'll be out there and it's a something, a feeling of being watched, you're uneasy, keep looking over there, kind of thing.

You'll know it when you experience it. Bears, they always seem to be going the other way quickly when I see them.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Dan Staley

Agreed and I've been tracked by puma when backpacking, and we had wolf come thru camp in the Pasayten last year. You just know. But bear don't want anything to do with you if they see you, and I can't say I've stared in the face of a black bear. Mark's experience seems instructive wrt gardens.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 4:08PM
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david52 Zone 6

A certain swerve here, but did All y'All read about the lynx that decided he didn't like SW Colorado AT ALL and went back home to Canada, all 1,200 miles?

Here is a link that might be useful: lynx link

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 8:22PM
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That lynx might be the one I saw in Little Giant Basin (at treeline), near Silverton, Co. last June. Some careless hikers had dogs (unleashed) that chased a lynx cat across the basin right in front of me and up the mountain. I lectured them about uncontrolled canines in "my" mountains! Off topic, but that is not OK!


    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:33PM
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gardenbutt(rocky mt 4-5)

My old gardens which are now my childrens place we lived in the heart of black bear, and griz land.Also a natural wildlife corridor along the creek that bordered the property.The surrounding area are filled with wild apple,plum, raspberry as well as native foods that connect down into the wildlife refuge.
We also had the mountain lions, bobcats, and a few other wildlife adventures.
Unlike alot who only got these as nightly visitors.if the population is high or there happens to be young ones leaving mom.You can be raided both day and night.Some of my most pesty bears were day timers, and these included ones trying to break into the house.
As my son just learned this year, bears also love soil amendments such as bone meal and blood meal, especially after a nice rain shower.I remember my first tulip planting using them both only to get up in the morning and watch a sow and 2 cubs digging up my newly planted plot licking the dirt and tossing my bulbs..I have had them go through the greenhouse walls after Alaskan fish but also a couple of the newer products in organics like the sugar daddy.If it smells sweet or plain stinks, they think it is all for them.I was never able to find a actual way to keep them from the compost area, so we found it less damaging to let them "flip" our pile.Any over ripe veges can become targets although the over ripe fruits are the favs,I know we planted our berries away from the house as far as possible and we used to get a nice harvest even sharing.
The biggy really becomes on knowing the bears in your area.In our old area the game wardens actually had us using marking shots to identify the problem bears.We had 8 to 10 visits a day from blacks and the more rare from the grizzly,, although spring and fall were more their times as the bruins would chase down all bears to kill..As to the fences workign on bears, that is always a debate, my sons neighbors have an 8 foot with razor wire totally electrified along with their cattle guard,, still had a grizz bruin break down the front door to the house
Bears are commonsense,, the cats are a bit trickier,,even growing up around all of them as well as employing hunting dogs back when the ex was a game warden ,I found them to be a concern with our kids riding the woods,only one had a chase adventure because he accidentally got caught between mom and baby when one of the dogs found the scent..

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 1:42PM
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