FWP Reminds Hunters to be Aware of Bears

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At the start of the 2005 hunting season, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks again reminds hunters and recreationists to be bear aware when they head into the field.

Human-bear conflicts have been lower this year due to the increased availability of natural foods such as berries, roots, and pine nuts. However, recent bear activity in Bozeman yards remind us that this is the time of year when bears are out searching for food and storing up for winter. This hyperphagic period, when bears are actively seeking foods as they prepare to den, will last from now through late-October.

In the field, hunters and others can take the following precautions:

? Think ahead about what you will do if you see a bear.

? If you are heading out alone in grizzly country, let someone know your detailed plans; better yet, don’t go alone.

? While hunting, pay attention to bear signs (fresh scat, tracks, digging).

? After making a kill, stay alert while processing the carcass and get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.

? Properly secure game animal carcasses away from bears in the front and backcountry.

? Use special precautions in returning to a carcass, including placing it where it can be easily observed from a distance.

? Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a grizzly that is near or feeding on a carcass.

? Carry bear pepper spray and know how to use it.

? If physically attacked in a surprise encounter, remain quiet and play dead. Lie face down, covering your neck and head with your hands and arms. Leave your backpack on. Remain still until you are sure the bear is gone.

? Take time to rehearse various scenarios in your mind in advance. Sports trainers say, “If the mind has never been there before, the body does not know how to respond.”

? Keep a clean camp and make sure each person in camp follows food storage rules. Keep bear pepper spray handy in camp.

People in town can also take steps to reduce conflicts with bears by not rewarding them with food. Some immediate things homeowners can do are take down bird feeders, bring all pet food indoors, store garbage cans in a bear proof place such as the garage and wait until the morning of pick-up to put garbage cans out, store the barbeque grill in a garage or keep it clean and odor-free, and collect apples that have fallen from trees.

Once bears become conditioned to getting human foods, it’s difficult to change their behavior. Bears in search of these unnatural food sources that return again and again to places where people have left food attractants unsecured can cause safety concerns, property damage, and may need to be captured and relocated or destroyed.