Bear-proof coop: Missoulians play keep-away with food attractants

Rob Chaney

No bear better mess with the chickens at Clark Fork School.

Presuming it makes it to the top of the 6-foot fence, it will get a zap from new electric fencing installed last week (well out of reach of the school’s 7-and-under aged students). It won’t find better pickings in the garbage cans, now that they’ve been upgraded to bear-resistant containers.

“The bears used to absolutely attack our garbage,” CFS Executive Director Jill Brischli said as a crew from Defenders of Wildlife strung the new wires around the coop. “We’d have to go pick it up out of the yards. We have a lot of things that attract wildlife, like compost and vegetables and chickens. We’re hoping to create a prototype for the neighborhood.”

Black bears have their own agenda for the Rattlesnake Valley surrounding Clark Fork School, as well as the rest of the fringe where Missoula’s residential neighborhoods merge with hillsides, forests and creek drainages. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional bear manager Jamie Jonkel has already had a scrambled spring responding to bear incidents. Much of the response involves human education on reducing bear attractants.

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