Bears have emerged from their winter dens
by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
May 14, 2009
Both black and grizzly bears have emerged from their winter dens and that means people living and recreating in bear country need to remember to be ‘bear aware’.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialist, Kim Annis, this is the time of year when bears start to wander, searching for winter-killed animals and new spring vegetation. However, spring green-up is a bit late in coming this year, so if the bears find it difficult to find natural food, they may look for an easy meal around developed areas, bringing bears into conflict with people.
Now is the time to take the necessary precautions to avoid a conflict with a hungry bear. Prevention is key, so it’s never too early, or too late, to secure the things that will attract a bear. If a bear has already gotten into something, secure the attractant immediately. If there is no food available for the bear, it will likely move on. However, the earlier a conflict is reported to the MFWP, the easier it will be to resolve the problem. So, if you have, or think you will have, a conflict with a bear at home, contact Annis as soon as possible.
Everyone living in Lincoln and Sanders Counties has the potential to have a conflict with a bear at home. In the spring, most conflicts with bears are related to bird feeders and improperly stored garbage and pet/livestock feed. Therefore, MFWP recommends that you stop feeding birds while the bears are out, properly store garbage and pet feed in a secure building or bear-resistant container and to feed pets inside, or be sure food bowls are empty after dark.
Annis encourages folks to get out and enjoy the spring weather. But be aware that the bears are active and necessary precautions should be taken to avoid a confrontation with a bear in the backcountry. When hiking, be cautious and alert, especially in areas where visibility is low (dense brush, switchbacks) and where noise is high (creeks). Make noise while you travel so bears can hear you coming and learn to recognize bear sign: scat, tracks, over-turned rocks, and diggings.
Commercially available bear spray has shown to be an effective tool in stopping a confrontation with a bear. Bear spray can be an effective deterrent in avoiding a physical encounter with a bear, but it should never be used in an area or on personal property in an effort to ‘repel’ bears.
Contact bear management specialist, Kim Annis, at the MFWP Libby Field Office, 406-293-4161, for assistance with bears or for more information on conflict prevention, bear-resistant containers, bear spray, or the effective use of electric fencing. For more tip on bears visit the MFWP Be Bear Aware website at http://fwp.mt.gov/wildthings/livingwwildlife/beBearAware.