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Jackson County man invents device to keep bears away

Retired engineer Dick Nichols had what you might call a "spark" of an idea. It's called Spark Away, billed as a safe, effective and humane animal deterrent, even for the biggest of bears. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

A local man might just have an answer to a growing problem here in the mountains -- too many bears coming too close to humans.

A retired engineer in Jackson County had what you might call a "spark" of an idea. It's called Spark Away, billed as a safe, effective and humane animal deterrent, even for the biggest of bears.

Without any contact between the animal and the device, it still does the trick by simulating lightning.

"It's enough of a shock to them from sound and the light that makes them stay away, because it does sound like a lightning strike," inventor Dick Nichols said. "That's the one thing they will run away from. And, after a while, they won't come back."

Nichols said the device is really quite simple, similar to the security lights outside many homes.

"When they detect a warm body, or motion, then it will trigger whatever device that you put into it, and that's in this case, Spark Away," Nichols said. "I've got videos of deer, raccoons, opossums, fox. I don't have one of coyote yet."

Nichols uses the device to protect blueberries, the backyard garden and also the prized honey from his bee boxes, which the bears just can't resist.

It appears nocturnal troublemakers don't like Spark Away, which can be solar-powered or AC-adapted and used anywhere -- even on your next trip into the woods.

"You can hang it up in your camp and go to sleep at night, not worry about the bears or other animals getting into your camp," Nichols said.

Closer to home, it might even be a deterrent for the bad guys.

"If you had a burglar come up and this went off, I don't think they would stick around, they won't know what it is," Nichols said.

Right now, Nichols is assembling Spark Away units himself, refining the design and looking to expand production.

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