Home Back Forward August 17, 1999: Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Positioning the new elevators on the tail of my Kolb. This has to be done to establish at what angle they are to be bolted, then they are removed and covered and painted.

This picture shows how we positioned the two wires which is what we think is all it will take to be effective, even when there are strong smells of fish coming from a box that is out of sight behind the tent. The trail is made 100% by bear feet in very hard ground. Some times a bear walks here every few minutes all day all week. It takes thousands of feet to maintain a trail like this.

(Click on any Image to see a higher resolution version)


There has been good weather and we have been able to finish a few projects that have been on the "to do" list for a while. One was getting the new elevators for the Kolb finished and installed, which they now are. Another was to set up a test for developing a small electric fence unit that could be easily carried and used in bear country by back packers. We are only testing concepts using available hardware that have already proven to be effective in protecting the plane when I am away from the cabin and have to leave it for a while. It is a small fence developed by Gallagher in New Zealand for sheep and goats. It runs off 6 C cell batteries which will power it for at least a month. We are working with the University of Calgary who will develop something using the specifications that we are able to establish.

We have erected a tent just to the side of a bear highway along the south shore of the lake which we can watch from the porch of the cabin. It is somewhat exposed to the north east winds which are the big blows here so we did everything we could to hold it down. We waited until after the hurricane season was passed before setting up the test, as shakily as that can be determined by the calendar. In truth it is never over but the odds are that we have about a month now when we might not get one of the real doozers, however we are still a bit worried that the tent we are using to simulated a back packers camp might survive the bears but be shredded by the wind. To give the bears added incentive to investigate the tent site, we built a box to put fish in, creating strong smells to attract them. The box is to keep the birds from stealing the fish. Because of the findings of other experiments only two wires were used as can be seen by the photo. I guess there might be a question as to whether or not hikers will feel safe behind such a scant fence. That is for the group who might develop the fence to decide.

For those who are not familiar with electric fence technology the idea is to discourage animals from going places that you don't want them to go or touching certain things by giving them a harmless electric shock which is very startling but not physically damaging. We can testify authoritatively to this from the times that we get zapped ourselves by being careless and accidentally touching the wires which we have around the cabin, toilet and my plane. The principal of how it works is that a high voltage is distributed into the wire in pulses of a little less than one second apart. Because it is only high voltage and very low amperage its is not dangerous. It is the same method that doctors use to get a heart attack patients heart beating again if it should stop for some reason. Even though it is harmless, it is not something that most animals like very much and bears are very smart about avoiding repeating the experience. We have found it to be a very valuable tool for living in bear country and are hoping that we can come up with something that is light and convenient enough to be easily carried by back country campers. We also will test simple ways to make food caches bear proof so that campers could have easier ways to keep bears out of their provisions while canoeing or hiking. The common method is to hoist packs high into trees, but black bears usually find way of foiling these attempts. Other people risk keeping food in their tents. Not a great idea if you carry things with as irresistible aromas as bacon on your overnighters. One thing that has already been developed successfully by someone in California, is bear proof food containers which are carried with you. This is a great idea especially if you are camping in undesignated campsites. We what to look at the possibility of a fence unit that would be solar powered in each backcountry campground for all campers to use.

Bears who get human food soon are in big trouble. We feel that everything that can be done to lessen conflict between humans and bears is to the benefit of bears because when there are hassles it is the bear who soon looses out.


© Lenticular Productions Ltd. 1999