Bear activity is picking up in many Montana neighborhoods, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to keep bear attractants contained.
Bears are often drawn to populated areas by unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders and dirty barbecue grills.
“When bears encounter easy neighborhood food sources, they often have a hard time returning to natural food,” said Jeff Hagener, director of FWP in Helena. “The only solution is to keep bears from becoming interested in your backyard. A conditioned bear will travel miles to get back to a garbage can.”
Hagener suggests that the following small precautions can go a surprisingly long way to deter bears from visiting one’s backyard:
• keep pet food inside,
• clean dirty barbeque grills,
• take down bird feeders,
• make sure the compost pile is not laden with food scraps,
• keep garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or in a secure building until trash collection.
Experience shows that bear conflicts decrease as more residents learn what attracts bears and how to keep these things out of a bear’s reach.
To learn more about bear proofing backyards and neighborhoods, and what systems, such as bear-resistant garbage cans or electric fence kits, may be needed to keep attractants off-limits, visit or call the nearest regional FWP office. Or, go to the FWP website’s Be Bear Aware page at fwp.mt.gov.
PREVENT CONFLICTS WITH BEARS
Here are some tips from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks that will help in preparing for bear-safe outings this spring and summer.
When recreating in bear country
• Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
• Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray.
• Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
• Travel in groups of three or more during daylight hours.
• Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
• Keep children close.
• Talk, sing, carry a bell or use other means to make your presence known, especially stream side or in thick forest with low visibility.
• Be especially cautious in areas where berry patches or other natural foods could attract bears.
• Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off.
When camping in bear country
• Camp away from trails and areas where you see bear sign.
• Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
• Avoid cooking smelly foods.
• Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10′ above ground and 4′ from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container, or within a portable electric fence. Livestock feed should be stored in the same way.
• Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.
For more on recreating in bear country, go to the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov and click Living With Wildlife and Be Bear Aware.
(Report by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Cover Photo: gvphoa.com)