Hungry Bears Threaten Longtime Paradise Small Business

Noble Orchards has been growing and selling fruit in Paradise for 97 years. This year, for the first time, hungry bears have threatened their business.

Posted: Jul. 11, 2018 5:10 PM
Updated: Jul. 11, 2018 5:22 PM

PARADISE, Calif. -- "We really felt like we were under siege last Fall," Laurie Noble explains.  She and her husband run Noble Orchards in Upper Paradise, a business that has spent nearly a century growing and selling fruit in the North State.

Noble says last Fall, bears broke through their orchard fence and damaged or destroyed more than 800 trees.  The destruction was not covered by insurance.

She says seeing the eaten remnants of their fruit on the ground, and broken branches everywhere, was devastating.  "When you see them on the ground, it's disheartening."  She says the business took a more than $2 million hit.

The Nobles reached out to several organizations for help, and a solution has been found-one they think will be win-win.  Partnering with the USDA and the Defenders of Wildlife, a national non-profit, the group has spent three days building an 8-foot wooden fence, and supplementing it with a large electric fence.  Says Noble, "This, quite frankly in the last few days, has turned into an old-fashioned barn-raising."

Pamela Flick, the California representative with Defenders of Wildlife, says these fences have proven effective in protecting and deterring wildlife in other states, like Montana.  "When they get that pulse through their nose and all the way through their body, they really are deterred from targets like this."

Colleen Cecil with the Butte County Farm Bureau says changes to California's hunting laws have impacted not only the black bear population but how bears interact with people.  "They have no fear," she says.   In 2014, California banned hunters from using dogs to track and chase bears.  Cecil says bears have grown accustomed to people, and they're thriving in number.  "They're coming down because they're hungry and thirsty, and they found a beautiful orchard with peaches and beautiful apples."

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