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Honey thief -- yes, a bear -- strikes Derry Twp. apiarist

| Saturday, June 7, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review
Dave Akins of Derry Township says his storage garage was damaged during a visit by a black bear on Friday, June 6, 2014.

A black bear with a hankering for honey could feel the sting of rubber buckshot if he ventures onto a Derry Township man's property again — unless the scent of brownies lures him into a trap first.

Dave Akins, a hobbyist beekeeper, said he has has lost seven of his nine hives to bears living in state game lands near his home off Route 22.

After 16 years of tending bees, Akins said he's frustrated and plans to conduct a sting operation.

Akins said he was awakened by his barking border collie, Pep, about 1:30 a.m. Friday.

He ran to his porch and saw that a bear had pried a window from a garage door and forced open a door to get to the honeycomb frames stored there. The bear then dragged the frames, still dripping with honey, outside the garage, where they lay on Friday morning.

“He smelled the honey,” Akins said.

It wasn't the first time a bear has damaged his beekeeping equipment.

Akins, 61, a disabled machinist, said he suspects the same bear has damaged his hives over the years.

Two weeks ago, Akins said, a bear wandered onto his property. Two days later, Akins put up electric fencing behind the garage.

Akins thinks the bear tried to sidle up to the remaining two beehives because the fence was “sparking.” The bear apparently headed for the garage, undeterred by a motion detector light.

“I went out on the porch and yelled at him, and he just looked at me,” Akins said.

“I turned on the kitchen light, and he darted off.”

After an incident last spring, the state Game Commission set up a trap near his property — using a frosted brownie for bait — but the bear didn't take it.

On Friday, state police at Kiski checked out the damage to the garage and suggested Akins again call the Game Commission.

Wildlife Conservation Officer Brian C. Singer said he advised Akins to add more electric fencing and brought him the bear trap.

Because bears' fur and girth give some protection from a shock, experts suggest baiting the fence.

“I'm going to put some bacon on the wire,” Akins said.

“We can't give him permission to euthanize the bear unless it jeopardizes humans or livestock,” Singer said.

The Game Commission will provide Akins with rubber buckshot, a “non-lethal stinging pellet,” Singer said.

“Under these circumstances, with the amount of damage, it's one more option,” he said.

Bears desperate for food will risk their safety and venture close to homes, Singer said.

Travis Lau, Game Commission spokesman, said homeowners can file damage claims if they experience loss of livestock or bees, or damage to beekeeping equipment.

Of this fiscal year's $20,000 fund; $11,000 has been paid out to date, Lau said.

Akins hopes he won't get stung by a bear again.

Bees are an endangered species, he said, noting scientists' concerns about colonies dying off.

“We need them more than we do the bears, for pollination,” he said.

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