Bear activity is picking up in many Montana neighborhoods and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to keep bear attractants contained.
Grizzly bears have already been reported on the Teton River east of Interstate 15 in northcentral Montana and in past years have also traveled along the Marias and Sun rivers. When that happens, they can be drawn to unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders, spilled grain and dirty barbecue grills.
“When grizzlies show up on the prairie east of the Rocky Mountain Front in areas they have not visited in decades,” says Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor in Great Falls, “they may seek out neighborhood food sources. The only solution is to keep bears from becoming interested in your backyard.”
Bertellotti 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 and livestock feed in bear-resistant containers or in a secure building.
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.
People who see a bear near their home are urged to contact their local sheriff’s department, local game warden or FWP in Great Falls, 454-5840, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
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 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 feet above ground and 4 feet 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 FWP)