Posted: Sep 19, 2012 7:00 AM by MTN News
Updated: Sep 19, 2012 7:51 AM
BOZEMAN- Predicting the foraging behavior of bears isn't easy, but experts who have been following bears this year say certain factors suggest that more bears may stay full and happy without foraging their way into town.
Frank Van Manen, the Team Leader for Bozeman's grizzly bear study team for the USGS, says there is one factor keeping grizzly bears at higher elevations this year.
"White bark pine crops don't produce well every year. This happens to be a good year so we expect fewer conflicts because of that but in years where white bark pine numbers are low we typically see a greater number of conflicts," said Van Manen.
Manen says black bears have much more of an opportunistic approach to foraging than grizzlies. Historically black bears have been the usual culprits for residential encounters.
Experts say this year, due to healthy berry production; black bear encounters may be fewer. It is still important that residents properly dispose of food.
While the current outlook is good, Van Manen believes hunting season could change foraging patterns for some bears.
"They are looking for food sources and so sometimes that means they go after a gut pile that hunters have left after they have killed an animal but it also of course brings them closer to elk hunters and sometimes causes run-ins," according to Van Manen.
It is important that hunters pack out kills as soon as possible to prevent bear bears from wandering too close to humans. Additionally, Van Manen reminds all who venture into the back country to carry bear spray. Male bears have been known to forage as late as December before hibernation.