Caution in Bear and Lion Country

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The recent death of an elk hunter in western Montana has made all hunters more aware of the tragic consequences of unexpected encounters with grizzly bears and other predatory animals in the wild.

"As unusual as incidents of this kind are, the tragedy has undoubtedly left a lasting impression on hunters and others who spend time outdoors," said Glenn Erickson, FWP's wildlife management bureau chief. "In Montana, grizzly bears, black bears, mountain lions and wolves have increased their ranges in recent years, so all hunters must be aware that they may encounter these animals in areas they didn?t inhabit just a few years ago."

While encounters with bears, lions or wolves seldom result in violent attacks, Erickson is urging all hunters to take the following precautions when hunting in Montana?s mountainous regions:

· Don't hunt alone.

· Tell a family member, friend, or neighbor where you plan to hunt and when you plan to return.

· While planning a hunt, determine the easiest and safest ways to field dress and remove the deer or elk from the area. Aim to remove the carcass in less than 24 hours.

· Make sure attractants like food are well contained or removed from camps, camp trailers, and cabins.

· Be alert to signs of bear or lion tracks, scat, digging, or rocks rolled over.

· Carry bear pepper spray and know how to use it properly.

· Approach your downed deer or elk carefully and remain alert while field dressing the animal.

Erickson said the most common causes of bear attacks include:

· Not making sufficient noise.

· Approaching or surprising a bear, especially at close range.

· Startling a female with cubs.

· Getting close to a carcass or other food source.

· Hiking off-trail or at night.

"Montana's hunters visit some of the wildest and most exciting wildlife habitats in North America," Erickson said. "That's an important part of the Montana hunting experience. Just as important, is being alert, cautious, and aware that you may encounter a bear, or mountain lion or even a wolf in the wild."

Erickson said hunters and others should report grizzly bear encounters to FWP, U.S. Forest Service, county sheriff, local law enforcement, or 9-1-1.