Keeping the Cougars out of your Bee Yard

Mountain Lions, October, 2013 (photo by permission Liz Goldie, Calgary)

Ever been chased by a mountain lion? How about a cougar, panther, or puma? Me neither, but I’ve probably passed within metres of all four. (I’m told that they’re all the same speciesPuma concolor.) A new study from U of C Santa Cruz looked at the timidity of these big cats. Investigators found that cougars are particularly flighty at the sound of human voices. According to the research scientists,  the cats run most quickly when they hear the recorded banter of political pundits. They are especially nervous when exposed to Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, or Rachel Maddow.

The experiment went something like what you see in the video below. Mountain lions were lured to a fresh carcass, then treated to the unexpected sound of frogs. The pumas kept eating. But when the soundtrack switched to noisy political know-it-alls, the cats fled – as should we all. The experiment was repeated again and again with the same results. This made me think of bears and bee yards.

It can be really, really hard to keep grizzlies and black bears out of bee yards. We once had a grizzly dig under a chain link fence to get into one of our apiaries. With the cheap cost and high reliability of electronics these days, I wonder if bears can be sent scrambling the same way that pumas retreat. Probably not. My brother chased a 7-foot-tall bear out of a bee yard by yelling at it, but the bear ambled slowly, then turned and stood, seeming to laugh at my brother as Don stood there, thinking that the hivetool in his hand wouldn’t be much of a defense if the bear suddenly charged.

I suspect that some non-fence systems might be as good as a string of electrified wires because bears sometimes make a hair-raising charge through the voltage. A north-Saskatchewan beekeeper told me that he regularly filled bottles with beer which he had cycled through his own body, placing urine-imbibed canisters around his bee yards. He claimed that after ‘marking his territory’, bears kept out. (That’s your beekeeping tip of the day.) Compared to the sound of Rush Limbaugh, it’s likely a less effective anti-bear ‘solution’. I have no reason to doubt the beekeeper, though I never tried it. Maybe someone can test this and let us all know if it works.

Grizzly at the bee yard, October, 2013 (photo by permission Liz Goldie, Calgary)

My friend Liz Goldie set up a Primos Truth Cam 46 at her farm south of Calgary and caught animals in these pictures. (By the way, the bear (above) eventually entered her apiary, ripping apart the electrified fence and some hives.)  Perhaps the trigger mechanism from the motion-sensitive camera which took the cougar and grizzly photos on today’s blog could be adapted to photograph the critters, then scare them away with a blast of pundit. Works for me.

About Ron Miksha

Ron Miksha is a bee ecologist working at the University of Calgary. He is also a geophysicist and does a bit of science writing and blogging. Ron has worked as a radio broadcaster, a beekeeper, and Earth scientist. (Ask him about seismic waves.) He's based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
This entry was posted in Bee Yards, Beekeeping, Diseases and Pests, Strange, Odd Stuff and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Keeping the Cougars out of your Bee Yard

  1. Emily Scott says:

    Amazing creatures. Would keeping bees high up on a rooftop or tree work as a defence, or would the grizzlies just bound straight up?


  2. Pingback: Keeping the Cougars out of your Bee Yard | Raising Honey Bees

  3. Wow! That’s some bee keeping problem we don’t have to contend with. I sing to keep the wild boar away when I walk up my track in the dusk! Have been told it’s less threatening but not sure about my tunefulness. Or maybe animals sense the crazy nature of politicos and truthfulness!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Keeping the Cougars out of your Bee Yard | Beginner Beekeeper

  5. Back country hiking in the Cassiar Range, North Western BC, prime Grizzly Country, we did the same, peeing around our campsites in a wide circle.
    The German “verwittern” translates into ” mask the scent of an object or place”. Whether it was masking or a deterrent I don’t know. But bear tracks in the mud was the closest we saw.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.