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Bozeman Police, Montana FWP remove black bear seeking neighborhood 'food rewards'

Police bear .jpeg
Posted at 6:15 AM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-16 11:59:32-04

BOZEMAN, MT — Another black bear was at the center of attention in a Bozeman community, in part by getting into someone’s garden.

It’s bringing up an issue once again, coupled with the many impacts of drought.

Some may call them close encounters of the bear kind, something that has increased with how common they have become in the last few years here in the south side of Bozeman, including in Bogert Park.

That’s because more black bears here in this spot of town have been getting in more trouble in all of the wrong places, including in garbage cans.

One such recent case involved Bozeman City Police, with one getting into someone’s watermelon.

“It’s not natural behavior or wild behavior that we want to see in the bears,” says Morgan Jacobsen, information and education manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Region 3.

A short walk through Bozeman’s neighborhoods south of Bogert Park and a few knocks on doors and you’ll know that a situation like this one with a cinnamon black bear isn’t the first for that area.

“We get about up to a dozen calls related to bears every day at our Bozeman office here at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks,” Jacobsen says.

MTN spoke with a few neighborhood residents who didn’t want to go on camera, each telling him that they’ve seen a bear like this one poking around their homes.

One woman said he got into her garbage can and another pointed to a home where he stole watermelon from her backyard.

To Jacobsen, it’s still a growing trend.

“Once they gain a food source at someone’s home, it’s nearly impossible to rehabilitate the bear and it usually ends up with the bear having to be euthanized,” Jacobsen says.

Which had to happen here.

“It’s one of six that have had to be euthanized now this season,” Jacobsen says. “We are in a drought year and so that does have the potential for us to see bears in areas where they are less common.”

So these black bears are among other animals seeking easier ways to survive, just like us.

But in the wrong places, that can just as often end in death.

“If they can get an easy food reward from something like a garbage can, they are going to keep coming back and that’s not something we want to see,” Jacobsen says.

And while signs are posted on trails like the Gallagator Trail near Bogert, it’s awareness that Jacobsen says will go a long way to help everyone, including the bear.

“Wildlife is what makes Montana special,” Jacobsen says. “Living here comes with certain responsibilities.”