With many bird seasons underway and archery season opening this weekend, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks reminds hunters that bears are active right now, searching out food from late summer hawthorn, chokecherry and other berry crops.
FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel, says that the Blackfoot Valley is one particular spot in western Montana where landowners and recreationists have reported a lot of grizzly and black bear activity recently.
Grizzlies use the entire Blackfoot and Clearwater watersheds at this time of year. Some are on high peaks, some in the river bottoms, and they may be found anywhere from Rogers Pass to the Potomac area and beyond.
Bears can be distracted as they feed on berries, Jonkel says, which could prompt a surprise encounter. Hunters and hikers should think ahead about what they would do in an encounter and carry and know how to use bear spray.
“When traveling through dense brush, look for bear scat and signs such as bent over limbs on berry bushes, and do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence,” Jonkel says. “This can be hard to do because you don’t want the deer, elk or birds to know that you are nearby. Just do your best to find this balance and have your bear spray close at hand.”
Jonkel offers a few important safety tips for hunting and hiking in bear country:
· Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
· If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
· Watch for fresh bear sign.
· After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
· When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
· Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
· Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.
For details on how to hunt safely in grizzly country, check the Deer, Elk and Antelope Hunting regulations available online and at FWP offices, or go to FWP’s Living with Wildlife web page.
(Report and photo by Montana FWP)