We are moving into the later part of June and things are really heating up in Zone 6 vegetable gardens. Early crops are being enjoyed and the gardener and his or her family eagerly await the arrival of the later crops.
Unfortunately, they are not the only ones waiting. Among the throng of eager garden watchers, particularly if you live in north Jersey, New York State or Pennsylvania is Ursus Americanus, the American black bear.
Depending on what you have in your garden, Mr. Black Bear is monitoring progress as thoroughly as you are. Everyone knows a bear’s predilection for berries, but melons are popular too. There is nothing an overheated bear enjoys more on a hot August day that a furry face full of cool water sandwich.
But most frustrating of all is a bear’s interaction with the winter squashes, the acorns, the Hubbards, the butternuts and pumpkins. He joneses for, not the squash exactly because he never eats them, but for the seeds which are inside. And he eats every last one of those.
It is so frustrating! A week before you are ready to harvest your squash, a bear or bears beats you to it, ripping them open and gouging and licking out every last seed.
How can you stop or prevent this? Do not run outside banging on a pot with a spoon, or throw a garbage can at him. Most of the time that will work, but sadly, only most of the time and when it doesn’t, you don’t want to be the statistic.
Above all, particularly if you live in New Jersey, do not shoot the bear. The entire weight of State and local governments not to mention the local Bear Cults will descend on you like a swarm of Harpies. You can be jailed, fined or have your firearms confiscated and possibly all three.
A fence, even if it is poultry wire and designed to keep out bunnies and deer will often work. If the bears are not used to breaking and entering – and some invade homes, campers and garages, an 8’ tall poultry wire or stronger fence will usually keep them out.
If they are used to breaking in to human built space or are very hungry, well, there is always next year for pumpkin pie.
An electrified fence works very well to exclude bears, but is more expense than many back yard gardeners wish to go to. On the other hand electrifying the fence will also keep out the raccoon mob, notorious ravagers of sweet corn. It is really a judgment call.
Of course, if bears do not frequent the area in which you live and garden, this is all moot. Enjoy those pumpkins and squashes!
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