MISSOULA — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks wildlife staff have been busy responding to reports of bears looking for easy food sources, especially garbage, in Missoula neighborhoods over recent weeks, leading to an uptick in conflicts. Keeping garbage secured from bears is key to preventing more issues.
This spring, several bears in Missoula’s Rattlesnake and West Riverside neighborhoods have been getting bolder in their search for food. One bear has entered several homes, causing safety concerns. Once a bear becomes food-conditioned, like this bear has, it is extremely difficult to break these habits and they often have to be euthanized.
For human safety and the good of bears, it is critical to keep attractants like garbage out of a bear’s reach. Set garbage out just before collection if possible, or bear resistant garbage cans are available from local garbage collection companies.
A local website, missoulabears.org, houses a collection of information from area partners on how to keep your property bear resistant and provides a spot to track recent wildlife activity and report attractant issues and wildlife sightings. The website was recently redesigned to include more, easy to find information.
FWP bear specialist, Jamie Jonkel, says that in the Missoula area, community partnerships have contributed to a lot of progress in preventing bear conflicts. In Missoula, a Bear Smart Working Group, made up of agency representatives, city and county leaders, and residents is working to address the root causes of human-bear conflicts, reduce the risks to human safety and private property and reduce the number of bears that must be euthanized or relocated each year. Learn more at missoulacountyvoice.com/bear-smart-missoula. A similar group, Bitterroot Bears, is working on bear conflict prevention in Ravalli County.
“It’s great to see the city, county and residents coming together to work proactively on bear issues. In order for progress to continue, everyone has to do their part in keeping their property as bear and wildlife resistant as possible,” Jonkel says. “It doesn’t take much for a bear to get hooked on the foods we have around our houses. Even keep those bear resistant cans inside as much as possible. Garbage-conditioned bears will often travel miles to get back to a garbage can.”
The best solution to bear problems is keeping a bear from getting that first taste of our neighborhood attractants. In addition to keeping garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or in a secure building until the morning of trash collection, remove bird feeders when bears are out and active; consider using electric fencing around chickens, garden areas and compost piles; and move other attractants such as pet food, dirty barbecue grills and ripe fruit indoors or into a secure building.
For more information on living, working, and recreating in Montana’s bear country, visit the FWP Bear Aware webpage at fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/be-bear-aware.