Bear sightings and encounters on the rise in Western Montana

Posted at 5:54 PM, Jul 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-06 23:14:42-04

Bears were active this Fourth of July weekend, and as Montana continues to open up to outdoor enthusiasts, that activity is expected to continue.

Montana Fish Wild Life and Parks say that an increase in outdoor activity has brought more encounters with bears this season and this past holiday weekend was a great example.

"The phone was just ringing off the hook this weekend, I think mostly because of the COVID-19 everyone is out everyone is out in the woods camping," Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 2 management specialist Jamie Jonkel.

Jonkel says that this year they are tracking bears in the Rattlesnake and Seeley but says these issues apply to all of Western Montana.

He also says the berry harvest has been strong which promotes bear encounters at trailheads, campgrounds, and even at some homes.

He recommends carrying bear spray on trails but there is one thing, in particular, FWP officials would like people to start doing.

"It seems like everyone has decided it's ok to put out bird feeders. Birdseed is full of oils and it's like a drug to these bears have been addicted to it," Jonkel said.

While strong berry crops should keep bears from looking for other food sources the location of the berries might still bring bears into contact with people

"You know we are going to have a really good serviceberry crop and looks like we are going to have a pretty good huckleberry crop so things should wane a little bit there will be more food but sadly a lot of the serviceberries are right in amongst some of the urban homesites so folks just have to be," Jonkel added.

Montana FWP's Bear Aware page on their website has more info on how to stay safe from Montana’s state animal.