With archery and upland game bird seasons opening Sept. 1, hunters are reminded to “Be Bear Aware.”
Montana is bear country. Anyone living, working, or recreating in bear country should maintain awareness and follow safety precautions to avoid a conflict.
“Hunters should always remain vigilant and remember that moving slowly and quietly increases your chances of surprise encounters and game-calling mimics prey. Bear spray is an effective deterrent and we encourage everyone, especially hunters, to carry it in the outdoors,” said Neil Anderson, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 1 Wildlife Manager.
Montana’s fall black bear hunting season is Sept. 1-Sept. 14 for bowhunters and the general rifle season is Sept. 15-Nov. 25. Hunters are required to pass a “black bear identification test” before purchasing a black bear hunting license. Grizzly bears cannot be legally hunted in Montana. The free identification test is available online at http://www.fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/bearID/.
Right now bears are actively seeking food sources before the winter denning season, and residents are urged to reduce or secure attractants. FWP Region 1 has recently seen an uptick in reports of bears approaching food sources, such as fruit trees and garbage. Odors attract bears. Food conditioning or habituation increases the chances of a conflict and the removal of that animal. Bears actively defend their food, their offspring, and their personal space.
To reduce the risk of conflicts with bears, people can follow simple precautions:
- Remove or secure food attractants such as fruit, garbage, bird feeders, meat scraps, harvested animals, livestock, and pet food.
- Carry bear spray, be prepared and know how to use it. Bear spray is an effective deterrent.
- Make noise when hiking and hike in groups.
- Hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans.
- Remain alert and watchful for bear activity. Avoid “tunnel vision” while pursuing game.
- Learn to recognize bear sign such as scat, tracks, and diggings.
- Pack out harvested meat as soon as possible. Avoid cutting up a carcass at dusk or nighttime.
- Upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise.
- Never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass. Immediately contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.
- Never store attractants in your tent.
- Store all food and garbage and any other odorous items inaccessible to bears. If available store attractants inside a vehicle, bear canisters, or secured bear boxes.
- Store game meat, capes, and dirty tools/clothes at least 100 yards from sleeping areas and preferably down wind.
- Wipe down outdoor eating and cooking areas after each use.
- When mountain biking, slow speeds around sharp corners and in densely forested areas.
More safety information is available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov.
Call Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.
(via MT FWP)