Electric fences installed in the Ukrainian Carpathians promote human and large carnivores coexistence
Location: Vyhoda – Ukraine,
Story by: Volodymyr Danchuk
Nearly 5 bears are illegally killed annually because of the damage they cause to households in the Ukrainian Carpathian region. WWF Ukraine with the financial support of WWF Polska and the European Union granted and helped to install 10 electric fences at the beginning of 2019 on the territories of households which have affected by large carnivores lately, particularly by brown bears and wolves. It led to zero cases of interactions between people’s property (livestock, apiaries) in the past year and will help to support peaceful human-bear/wolf/lynx coexistence and prevent possible conflicts in the future.
Vyhoda native Volodymyr Danchuk is a forester at Mizynzke forestry. His office (administration building) located high in the mountain area and surrounded by a forest, also there is a bee-garden with 21 hives in it. It was these beehives and their contents that attracted the bear all the time. The animal has been visiting the apiary for the last three years and destroyed it.
“Last summer it destroyed almost all our beehives, only 10 bee families had survived. Our income from beekeeping almost has fallen to zero”. — Volodymyr explains the situation.
All this happened despite the beehives were situated near the forestry administration and were permanently guarded. This situation prompted Volodymyr Danchuk to look for a way to protect the apiary. The best solution was the electric fence provided by WWF Ukraine that was installed around the apiary in early spring 2019.
“The result of the electric fences, we have seen immediately — since it was installed, the bear once tried to get some honey, but he only tore two wires and ran away”.
Why is it important for people like Volodymyr Danchuk to find a simple and effective way to protect their property? Bogdan Vykhor wildlife manager at WWF Ukraine, and coordinator of “Life. Euro large carnivores“ project, knows the answer:
“People who are doing traditional farming are socially-economically vulnerable — even one sheep, cow or beehive is a serious financial loss for them. And bears are vulnerable as well — even one bear illegally killed by poachers or farmers is a threat to all the country population. That’s why finding and spreading solutions which could help both people and animals is crucial.
Electric fences guarding against bears, lynxes and wolves work on the same principle. It helps to protect property and forces predators to look for easier food far from the people in the forests. As a result, we have what the Ukrainian proverb says “the wolves should be fed and the sheep kept safe”.
Electric Fences for Apiaries
Previous research and practice shows that the use of electric fences significantly limits the access of bears to apiaries, waste dumps and anthropogenic food (Strorer et al. 1938, Davies and Rockwell 1986, Latour and Hagen 1993, Huygens and Hayashi 1999, Clarc et al. 2005). The effectiveness of electric fences was rated at 70-100% by these authors. For beekeepers, they are a possibility to protect their bees and honey. The electric shepherds used here were equipped with special solar panels which significantly prolonged the operation of their batteries, which was absolutely crucial. Additionally, the fence should not touch the grass or branches of trees and shrubs (grounding).
All the honey in this apiary is harvested from plants that grow in the mountains, including linden, blackberry and raspberry flowers – which makes it especially valuable and unique.
After the bear destroyed the apiary, only a few dozen litres of honey were produced. According to Volodymyr Danchuk, after they installed the electric fence, the beekeepers plan to increase the number of beehives to 30. This year they expect to receive about half a ton of honey.