KALISPELL — Bird hunters should exercise caution in and around Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area south of Ronan after an encounter between a bird hunter and a grizzly bear with cubs.
On the morning of Oct. 16, a bird hunter encountered an adult female grizzly bear with cubs that were day-bedded in a shelterbelt. No injuries were sustained by the hunter. Though the hunter fired two shots at the bear, after a thorough field investigation no evidence of an injured grizzly bear was found in the management area.
This surprise-encounter incident highlights the importance of carrying bear spray when hunting, fishing, and recreating, and to exercise caution when approaching wooded draws and thickets in bear country. When approaching a shrubby thicket, be sure the wind is carrying your scent toward the thicket, not away from the area, and make as much noise as possible to allow bears the opportunity to hear and smell your presence before you walk upon them.
Bears will avoid an encounter and leave the area if given ample warning of human presence.
Hunters can expect to see grizzly bears in the western half of Montana. Preventing conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with them.
How to stay safe afield
- Carry bear spray and knowing how to use it
- Pack meat out as soon as possible.
- Avoid cutting up carcass at dusk or night. If you kill an animal at dusk, be prepared to cut up the carcass in the dark by carrying strong headlamps. Be extra vigilant and watch for bears.
- Properly hang meat until you can retrieve your downed game.
- If you must leave your animal, return to the site carefully. Leave it in an area that is easily observable from a distance.
- Drag gut piles into open areas, if possible, and at least 100 yards from your carcass as soon as possible.
- If a bear has claimed your animal, do not attempt to haze or frighten the bear away. Report any lost game to FWP.
- Bird hunters should be extra careful while walking in and along areas of brush because grizzly bears use thick cover for day beds – especially along waterways. Bird hunters should, walk with the wind, carry bear spray, and should keep a close eye on hunting dogs. If there is abundant fresh sign of grizzly bears in the area, consider bird hunting somewhere else.
- Learn more online at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/be-bear-aware.