Having a bear wreck our chicken coop a few days ago, reminded me of a funny bear story that happened several years ago. This was right after we dug our pond and stocked it with fish. When we bought the fish it was a virgin pond. Well that’s not quite true, cause about a million frogs had sex down there. A billion eggs hatched into tadpoles. Now it’s a cacophony of frog song in the evening, everything from the deep bruppppp of the bullfrog, to the high ddrrtttttt of the tree frogs. Anyway, there was nothing for the fish to eat, so we installed an automatic fish feeder.
I did a lot of research online to find this thing. Now there are a lot of automatic deer feeders. These are for the intrepid hunters that set one of these up in the woods to train the deer to come every day to feed. Then they sit in a tree and blow Bambi away. These could work as a fish feeder, but they are designed to throw the feed in a 360 degree pattern. We were mounting it to the front of the dock and didn’t want the food spraying on the wood, but I finally found one that had been designed just as a fish feeder and had a directional sprayer. It wasn’t cheap, but was compact and not too ugly. The food container was made of a heavy grade plastic, and the lid just slipped on the top. No positive lock. So the first modification was to install spring lock screen door latches on each side of the lid to keep raccoons, etc. from opening it. We knew it would never withstand an onslaught from a bear, but hoped we would not have to prove it. It worked great for a couple of months. It had a solar eye that sensed the time of day and dispensed food an hour after dawn and an hour before sunset. Then one day……
The plastic container was mangled. The motor mechanism was metal and unharmed. So we started thinking about food boxes that would be bear proof that we could attach the motor to. While pondering on this, we stopped by the co-op, and saw that they had one of the deer feeders for sale. This one was a simple 6 gallon metal bucket with a metal lid that crimps down, just like a big paint bucket. This one was a stylish camo design, to boot. We examined the lid and decided that there was no way the bear could pry the lid off short of carrying his own screwdriver. So we bought it.
Next came the second of many modifications in the creation of a bear proof feeder. Tim mounted it on the original 4×4 post (somewhat chewed), but since this was a deer feeder, it sprayed food in a complete circle. Tim devised a deflector by attaching a curved piece of plastic to keep it from spraying on the dock (actually half of a Clorox bottle). The next day the bear came back. He couldn’t open the pail, so he chewed the post some more, and pulled the deflector off. It was floating on the pond. Tim retrieved the deflector and put it back on. This scene repeated itself for several more days. The post getting smaller and smaller, and the deflector eventually getting lost. Meanwhile, we hit on the idea of an ammo box to hold the food.
Modification 3. Tim cut a hole in the bottom of the ammo box, mounted the original directional motor, installed a slide in the box to direct the feed into the shute, drilled holes in the side to mount to the 4 x 4 post, speaking of which, was now only about a 3 x 2. So mod 4, Tim sent me to the metal salvage yard where I found a 3 inch diameter iron pipe. He mounted it with U shaped brackets to the dock and then to the ammo box. Perfect. Solid. No way a bear is getting into this. So we sat back and waited. Next morning we’re standing in the kitchen looking down at the pond, and lo and behold, there is the bear standing on the dock examining the new puzzle box. He’s just a young guy, maybe 2 years old. I’m watching him through the binoculars, and Tim is watching through the 10 inch telephoto lens on the camera snapping pictures.
The bear seemed to be very gentle while we were watching him. He’d put his paw into the slot to try to retrieve any pellets that may be sitting in there. But after about 5 minutes, he moseyed on. Next morning, however, we noticed that the bear had rotated the feeder on the pole so that the dispensing shute was directed right onto the dock. Pretty clever bear. Tim had to use all of his body weight to shift the feeder back around. Every morning, we would find it in the same position. So we had to put our heads together to find a fix for this new problem. It obviously takes 2 of our brains to outsmart “the av-er-age bear”.
Mod 5. Tim drilled a hole through the iron post and into the ammo box and inserted a huge bolt. Eureka-The invention of a bear proof fish feeder!! The bear was never able to raid the food box again, but he apparently got frustrated over the situation, and on 3 occasions, tossed our metal benches into the pond in an act of revenge.
The same day we photographed him down on the dock, he paid his first visit to our chickens. He climbed the fence into the back yard where we keep the coop. He wasn’t interested in the chickens, thank goodness, but he wanted the food that we had stored in a large Rubbermaid deck box where we keep the chicken supplies. Again, we had used one of our screen door latches to keep the lid closed, and he couldn’t get it open, so he rolled the box until the hinges popped open. He couldn’t get the lid off of the smaller food box, so he just took it with him.
We then installed an electric wire along the top of the fence to keep him from climbing over.
Various fish feeders and modifications —cost $275
1 Rubbermaid storage box and 50 lbs of chicken feed —-cost $50
Electric wire installed around top of back yard fence —-cost $195
Mental image of bear’s expression when he puts his paws on the hot wire —-priceless