Educational activities planned around state
HELENA – As grizzly bear populations and distribution increase across Montana, it’s more important than ever to be bear aware. Currently, grizzly bears can be found in all of Montana west of Billings. To encourage residents and nonresidents to be vigilant about the presence of bears, Gov. Greg Gianforte proclaimed September as Bear Aware Month, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host several education events and opportunities that will feature fun activities, prizes and giveaways, such as stickers and can koozies.
These events include:
- Aug. 31 and Sept. 14, Columbia Falls Community Market
- Sept. 5, Great Falls, FWP Region 4 Office
- Sept. 7, Missoula, FWP Region 2 Office
- Sept. 7, Billings, FWP Region 5 Office
- Sept. 7, Miles City, FWP Region 7 Office
- Sept. 11, Bozeman, FWP Region 3 Office
- Sept. 26, Helena, Montana WILD
- Sept. 27, Butte, Montana Tech
For more details about these and other events and activities, visit fwp.mt.gov/bear-aware.
Grizzly bear numbers continue to increase, and grizzlies are becoming more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year. Bears also become more active in late summer and fall as they spend more time eating in preparation for hibernation.
There are four grizzly recovery zones partially or completely within Montana:
- The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (in parts of southwestern Montana, northwestern Wyoming and eastern
- The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (in northwestern Montana) grizzly bear population has increased from approximately <400 bears in 1975 to approximately 1,100 and has reached population recovery goals.
- The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem (in portions of northwestern Montana and northern Idaho)
- The Bitterroot Ecosystem (in western Montana and northern Idaho).
In the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, which covers parts of southwestern Montana, northwestern Wyoming and eastern Idaho, the grizzly bear population has increased from fewer than 200 bears in 1980 to approximately 1,000 and has reached population recovery goals. In the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, grizzly bear population has increased from fewer than 400 bears in 1975 to approximately 1,100 and has reached population recovery goals. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, with an estimated 55 bears, and the Bitterroot Ecosystem, with no known bears, have not yet met population recovery goals.
“Grizzly bear recovery in the Greater Yellowstone Area and Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem is a major conservation success story,” said FWP Director Dustin Temple. “Working with the public and landowners to avoid conflict is a top priority and an critical part of bear management in Montana.”
Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, working closely in Montana with FWP, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Services and Native American tribes. This collaboration happens through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
Avoiding conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with such conflicts. Here are some precautions to help residents, recreationists and people who work outdoors avoid negative bear encounters:
- Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building or certified bear-resistant container. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
- Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety. It is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
- Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
- Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
- Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
- If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
For more information and resources on bear safety, visit fwp.mt.gov/bear-aware.