HELENA – As grizzly bears emerge from their dens across the state the potential for conflicts with farmers, ranchers and other producers is increasing. In the past few years, bears have been spotted in areas where they haven’t been for more than a century, and the possibility of encountering a grizzly exists anywhere in the western part Montana. Black bears are also widely distributed across the state. Be bear aware.
Bears are always on the lookout for an easy food source, including unsecured garbage, spilled grain and livestock carcasses, all of which can bring them into proximity of homeowners and agricultural producers.
Grizzly bears are still a federally protected species. Landowners can haze grizzly bears off their property but must do so without harming the bear; this typically means using loud noises and hard-sided vehicles. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service guidelines for hazing grizzly bears can be found here. Producers can reduce the risk of depredation by installing electric fencing around small calving pastures, pens and corrals. Be cautious around brushy cover including shelterbelts and creeks that bears may use as travel routes or resting areas. Additionally, putting salt, mineral and creep feeders out in the open, away from brush and water, can help deter bears.
Removing or putting electric fences around bone piles can prevent bears from receiving food rewards and being drawn in near homes and herds. In several areas around the state, local efforts have implemented the removal of livestock carcasses to avoid attracting bears near livestock operations. For more information about carcass collection efforts that might be in your area, please contact the nearest FWP specialist. You can find a list of specialists here.
In and around towns, attractants can include other things such as pet food, garbage, barbecue grills and bird feeders. Homeowners should secure these sorts of items to prevent attracting wandering bears.
FWP specialists work diligently to help landowners, homeowners and communities avoid bear conflicts. To report a grizzly bear sighting or conflict, or for assistance securing attractants, contact the FWP bear specialist nearest to you. For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services.
Given grizzly bears are a federally protected species, conflict response is primarily conducted by FWP, tribal fish and wildlife agencies, and USDA Wildlife Services under the authority of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. It is illegal to harm, harass or kill grizzly bears, except in cases of self-defense or the defense of others.
Landowners can take measures to prevent bears from being drawn near homes and livestock. Here are some general tips to help prevent bears causing problems in agricultural areas:
- Place tarps under loaders when transferring grain to prevent spills.
- Dispose of old grain through sanitation services, burning or dumping away from people, buildings and livestock.
- Dispose of carcasses and afterbirth through sanitation services, inside an electrified boneyard or by distributing away from people, buildings and livestock. Electric fences can be placed around fresh carcasses and bone piles until they can be permanently removed.
- If possible, secure domestic animals within an electric fence when unattended by people or at night. This includes poultry, goats, sheep or rabbits.
- Place creep feeders, molasses and mineral blocks in open areas where humans and livestock can easily view the area before entering.
- Grizzly bears can be deterred from areas near homes using USFWS guidelines for hazing grizzly bears, found here. This helps reinforce bears’ fear of people.
- Don’t let grizzly bears linger in your yard or in close proximity to home or other structures because this can lead to habituation. Call an FWP specialist to help deter bears if you are not comfortable or able to do so.
- Notify your neighbors if you do observe a grizzly bear in the area to help make others aware.
You can find more information on living and working in bear country, here.