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Spring time welcomes bears back to the Valley

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News from CSKT

FLATHEAD RESERVATION — As spring approaches, the Tribal Wildlife Management Program would like to remind the public that bears, both black and grizzly, will soon be emerging from their dens. 

Mild weather this fall and winter may mean bears could emerge from the den earlier this spring. 

“Because these bears extensively use habitat throughout the entire Mission Valley, it’s time to start thinking about bear-proofing residences and ranches to prevent conflicts with garbage and small livestock,” Tribal Wildlife Management Program officials state. 

Bears are attracted to garbage, pet foods and bird feeders. Unprotected small livestock like chickens, goats, pigs and llamas often result in bear and human conflicts. Whenever food is made available to bears, the risk of creating a food-conditioned bear is high; this could ultimately endanger human safety, cause property damage or cause a bear’s elimination. 

In the Mission Valley, domestic chickens and other small livestock have been a particularly serious problem the past few years. 

“Local research has concluded that a chicken coop or goat, pig or llama pen unprotected by electric fencing is 50 percent more likely to be involved in grizzly bear conflict than coops that are protected,” management officials state. “In the past 10 years, over 30 grizzlies have been captured or handled and over 20 have been killed or removed due to small livestock conflicts alone.”        

“In all of these incidents, Tribal Wildlife Biologists determined that an effective electric fence would have prevented the bear conflict. Bear managers request that anyone with small livestock or poultry install an electric fence to protect and secure attractants before conflict occurs. There are programs we can connect you with to help cost-share the installation of electric fences in our area.” 

Another potential for human bear conflict is recreating in bear country. When recreating in any wildlife habitat on the Flathead Indian Reservation, it is strongly advised to have bear spray readily accessible (and know how to use it). Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best and most effective method for fending off threatening and attacking bears and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved. 

“To emphasize how important it is to carry bear spray in grizzly country, CSKT Natural Resources is working with Defenders of Wildlife and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put bear spray in the hands of all outdoor recreationists,” management officials state. “Any resident of the Flathead Indian Reservation can request bear spray for $10 when purchasing a 2021 tribal recreation, camping or fishing/hunting permit from our Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Conservation office in Polson. Tribal members can request $10 bear spray with their Tribal ID.” 

One of the best ways to ensure safety is to travel in a group of three or more people and make noise. Make loud noise especially when in dense brush or near running water where surprise encounters are likely to take place.

To receive consultation or information on securing bear attractants and preventing conflicts around your home, call Kari Eneas at the Tribal Wildlife Management Program at 406-883-2888 ext. 7217. To report bear or other carnivore conflicts, call the 24/7 Wildlife Conflict Dispatch Center at 406-275-2774, immediately during or after the incident. 

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