Hungry bears invade Yukon's backyard chicken coops

An increasing number of Yukon residents are keeping chickens in their backyards, in an attempt to 'eat local.' Unfortunately, they're not the only ones who are interested in doing so.

'There seems to be an increasing number of cases where it's chicken-bear conflicts,' says conservation officer


Backyard chicken coops are on the rise in the Yukon, and a growing number of unwanted visitors — hungry bears — are stopping by for a snack.

It's an issue that's become a problem in recent years, says conservation officer Ken Knutson.

"For the reasons that are important to those people, they got chickens, but they haven't taken that extra step and protected the birds, their property to the extent they should," he says. 

Conservation officer Ken Knutson says the number of bear-chicken altercations is on the rise. He suggests that people keeping chicken coops use an electric fence to keep out unwanted ursine visitors. (CBC)
"They haven't thought about what's going to come in and potentially eat these birds, and this time of year it's bears, right?"

In May, bears broke into chicken coops in Haines Junction and Whitehorse. In 2014, there were eight reports of bears breaking into Whitehorse chicken coops. Five of those bears—including four grizzlies—had to be destroyed, Knutson said.

For many people, raising backyard chickens is part of a concentrated effort to eat locally, with eggs and meat produced right at home. Etienne Tardif, who lives near Whitehorse, has kept dozens of chickens on his property since last year.

"There's some really good recipes, coq-au-vin, that you can do with roosters," he says. "It's really good."

Tardif hasn't had any problems with bears yet, but Knutson says that it's likely just a matter of time. 

"There seems to be an increasing number of cases where it's chicken-bear conflicts," he says, "and that's resulting in bears being killed, that's resulting in people losing their investment in their birds."

Knutson says that electric fences can be effective in reducing potential problems.

Tardif says he doesn't have an electric fence yet, but will consider one for the future. For now, he'll rely on chicken wire and his watchdog. (CBC)
Tardif doesn't have one yet. Instead, he relies on chicken wire, and his watchdog. Conservation officers don't believe that's sufficient.

"I'd say an electric fence is probably something we'll do in the future," says Tardif. 

"But at the moment, money-wise, I guess we just have to budget accordingly."


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