As the population of rural King and Snohomish counties grows, people who live and work there are looking for innovative ways to coexist with wildlife, like bears.
A farm near Woodinville is installing a smart fence, which they hope will keep people and animals at a safe distance.
“We want to make sure we are all coexisting in a very happy medium,” said Zsofia Pasztor, executive director of Farmer Frog, a non-profit educational farm.
She and her team are concerned the black bears that live around there would be tempted by some of the new additions to the farm, like the fish they're raising in outdoor tanks.
“Catfish actually (are) a real delicacy for bears, so it's definitely something that they would be interested in,” she said.
So Farmer Frog is working with a team of students from UW Bothell to install an innovative new smart fence designed to deter bears.
A camera can tell when a bear is nearby. It then electrifies the fence and illuminates a light, which, in time, bears should learn to avoid.
“It's a really big advancement. It's not just a motion sensor; it can tell the difference between a coyote and a bear,” Pasztor said.
“A critical part of our education is to bring the students and the community together in a way that’s mutually impactful,” said Pierre Mourad, UW Bothell professor of engineering and mathematics.
The designers say the system has a high success rate of identifying bears, and while it is still an experiment of sorts, it could be quickly deployed elsewhere.
Western Wildlife Outreach, a non-profit that helps educate the community about wild animals, is exploring ways to expand the system to other farms and properties in growing parts of rural King and Snohomish counties.
“The more people and bears interact, the more opportunity there's going to be for some injury to occur, simply because a bear got cornered in the garage or backyard,” said Lorna Smith, executive director of Western Wildlife Outreach.
Farmer Frog also has Fergus and Sirius, a pair of livestock guardian dogs to scare bears. If the new camera system works as well as they think it will, those two might have a lot more downtime.