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This Week in Fish and Wildlife: Staying 'bear aware' keeps humans safe and bear populations healthy

Posted at 10:21 AM, Apr 09, 2024

It was a long winter, and most of us are ready for spring. That also includes Montana's bear population. This week, MTN’s Chet Layman talks with FWP about the importance of staying bear aware for both the safety of ourselves and of Montana's bears.

BOZEMAN — Winter got off to a slow start, but it did come, and Montana's bears did what bears do. That's now coming to an end. March is pretty typical for the end of hibernation. That means they will once again be on the landscape, and they will be hungry. We need to make sure to stay out of their way.

“There's two reasons why we talk about bear safety so much. The number one reason is human safety. We want people to be safe and we want their communities to be safe. The number two reason is for healthy bear populations. We want to encourage healthy bear behavior by removing attractants and anthropogenic food sources from the reach of bears,” said Morgan Jacobsen, information and education manager for Montana FWP Region 3.

Bear spray, traveling in groups and making noise, and removing food from the landscape are part of our role in that. Also recognizing natural food sources when out can go a long way to keeping yourself and the bears safe.

“We had a very mild winter this past winter so we're not expecting to see a lot of animal carcasses on the landscape. But if you do encounter some of those, make sure you avoid them,” Jacobsen said.

That also means removing man-made food sources is extra important because there will not be as many easy carcass meals as in springs past. So the hunt for food will be elsewhere.

FWP says recognizing everything west of Billings in Montana is bear country, we need to respect that fact.

“By being bear aware you're keeping you and your family, your community, safer and you're also helping foster good behavior, good healthy wild natural behavior with bears,” said Jacobsen.

Go out, have fun, but remember: while this is our playground, bears call it home.