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FWP urges people to be bear aware


September 13, 2018

As the fall bear archery season ends Friday and the rifle bear season begins on Saturday, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) is reminding hunters and recreationists to be bear aware. FWP Game Warden Troy Hinck said this week that a collared grizzly bear is being tracked in the upper portion of Thompson River.

“Grizzly populations are expanding into places where people may not expect to see them,” Hinck said. He noted that the grizzly seen in the Thompson River area came from the Selkirk Mountains in Idaho. This spring, a grizzly was captured in the Thompson River area and relocated near Lake Koocanusa.

Hinck said that the grizzlies moving through the Sanders County area tend to be smaller bears and are about the same weight as a black bear (less than 300 pounds). Not only do hunters need to be aware of their target animal, but Hinck said that people are hanging game, it could attract grizzlies. He said that grizzly encounters are becoming more of a common reality for people recreating outdoors.

Hinck said there have been other grizzly sightings in the area, and as berries dry up, the bears travel the river corridor searching for other food sources.

“We harvest a lot of bears in this area,” Hinck said. “The black bear population appears to be healthy and we have a growing grizzly population as well.” As the grizzly population continues to grow, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on a plan to delist grizzlies from the endangered species act.

With possible delisting and a potential hunting season in the area for grizzlies, interactions with bears may increase.

According to FWP, right now bears are actively seeking food sources before the winter denning season, and residents are urged to reduce or secure attractants. FWP has recently seen an uptick in reports of bears approaching food sources, such as fruit trees and garbage. Odors attract bears. Food conditioning or habituation increases the chances of a conflict and the removal of that animal. Bears actively defend their food, their offspring, and their personal space.

To reduce the risk of conflicts with bears, people can follow simple precautions:

• Remove or secure food attractants such as fruit, garbage, bird feeders, meat scraps, harvested animals, livestock, and pet food.

• Carry bear spray, be prepared and know how to use it. Bear spray is an effective deterrent.

• Make noise when hiking and hike in groups.

• Hunt with a partner and let someone else know your plans.

• Remain alert and watchful for bear activity. Avoid “tunnel vision” while pursuing game.

• Learn to recognize bear sign such as scat, tracks, and diggings.

• Pack out harvested meat as soon as possible. Avoid cutting up a carcass at dusk or nighttime.

• Upon returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise.

• Never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass. Immediately contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.

• Never store attractants in your tent.

• Store all food and garbage and any other odorous items inaccessible to bears. If available store attractants inside a vehicle, bear canisters, or secured bear boxes.

• Store game meat, capes, and dirty tools or clothes at least 100 yards from sleeping areas and preferably down wind.

• Wipe down outdoor eating and cooking areas after each use.

• When mountain biking, slow speeds around sharp corners and in densely forested areas.

More safety information is available at Residents can call the FWP regional office at (406) 752-5501 to learn more about bears or to report bear activity.


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