We don’t often think of Southeastern Montana as bear country, but it is. And just as elsewhere in Montana, people are encouraged to be aware of bears and to play a role in preventing conflicts.
On Memorial Day around 6 p.m., game wardens from Fish, Wildlife & Parks Region 7 responded to a report of a small black bear rummaging in trash outside of a garage on the southern edge of Miles City. The bear fled after FWP arrived, avoiding hazing attempts, but it returned to the area twice more that evening. The final time, it entered the garage in search of trash. It emerged when confronted by the resident and ran to the neighbor’s home, where it was shot by the homeowner.
Wardens were informed of the incident and the bear was removed.
Montana law allows people to kill a bear to defend themselves, another person or a domestic dog. People may be able to avoid this situation, however, with some preventive efforts.
Once a bear finds easy sources of human food, it can become conditioned to favor them over the more difficult to find and less calorie-laden natural bear foods. And a bear seeking human foods is certain to come in conflict sooner or later with people. The most effective way to save Montana’s bears is to remove any attractants that may draw them into close proximity with people.
“Most bear problems are from attractants,” said Region 7 Warden Frank Blundetto.
It is extremely important that people are aware of what attracts bears and do everything possible to secure those items.
Common bear attractants include:
-Human garbage. Garbage should be stored where bears can neither smell nor gain access to it, either in a bear-proof container or inside a building.
-Bird feeders. Avoid using bird feeders from March through November; birds don’t need supplemental feed at this time, and bird seed is irresistible to bears.
-Barbecue grills. Grills often contain food residue and grease.
-Beehives. Hives, honey and bee larvae are especially attractive to bears.
-Compost. Anything other than grasses and leaves should not be composted outdoors.
-Fruit and vegetables. Pick fruit and vegetables as they ripen, and plant your garden as far away from your house as possible.
-Plants. Avoid plants that attract bears, and use native plant landscaping whenever possible.
–Salt licks, grain or deer blocks.
-Pet food. Avoid feeding pets outside at dawn or dusk when bears are most active and do not leave their food unattended at any time.
There have been other reports of bears in close proximity to rural residences this season in Region 7, and attractants were also present in those cases.
“It’s not uncommon for bears to travel down river corridors and show up on the edge of a town,” Blundetto said.
With that in mind, residents must remember to take steps to keep encounters from becoming conflicts.
If you see a bear close to residences, people, pets or livestock in Region 7, please call the regional office at 406-234-0900 or contact Warden Blundetto at 406-853-7900.