Bears seek food sources with arrival of fall
Residents reminded to secure food attractants
Fish, Wildlife & Parks photo
News from Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
KALISPELL — With the arrival of fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff are busy responding to bear conflicts and working with the public to prevent conflicts.
To date, most of the reported conflicts in northwest Montana have involved bears getting into unsecured garbage and livestock feed, hanging around homes feeding on green grass and clover, and killing small livestock, such as chickens and pigs. FWP staff work with landowners on electric fencing, loaning out bear-resistant garbage containers, and securing attractants with the goal of preventing conflicts.
In fall, bears are increasingly active in preparation for winter denning. FWP has received numerous reports of bears feeding on domestic fruit on residential properties, as well as serviceberries, chokecherries, hawthorn, and huckleberries. Numerous bears have been reported in Whitefish feeding on fruit trees, and FWP staff encourage residences to pick up fruit. A Facebook page named Flathead Fruit Gleaning works to connect residents who want to pick up fruit with those who need fruit picked up. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/FlatheadFruitGleaning/.
Bears that gain rewards from human food sources can become food conditioned, which means they lose their natural foraging ability and pose an increased risk to human safety. Food rewards can also lead wildlife to become habituated to people, another increased risk to human safety. Both food conditioning and habituation often lead to euthanizing an animal for safety reasons.
Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears that frequent higher and lower elevations, especially river corridors. Preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.
Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.
Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
Know your bears. It is important to know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears, whether you are hunting or hiking.
Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never intentionally get close to a bear.
Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is a simple, effective short-term way to deter a bear on private property.
A properly constructed electrified fence is both safe for people, livestock and pets, and has proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock.
Please report conflicts to one of the nearest FWP bear management specialists in your area. For a list of specialists, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/species/bear/contact.
Seeing a bear is not necessarily a reportable encounter or an emergency. Report encounters where the bear displayed aggressive or defensive behavior toward people, livestock or pets, or damaged property. In an emergency, phone 9-1-1. For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services.
Learn more about grizzly bears in Montana by visiting https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/species/bear.