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Uptick in Flathead bear activity highlights need to secure garbage

Black Bear garbage
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Posted at 5:10 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 00:51:22-04

WHITEFISH — With the fall season fast approaching, bear activity in the Flathead has picked up substantially as they make their way into more urban areas looking for food sources.

Bears keep themselves busy this time of year wandering into more urban areas in the Flathead looking to load up on calories before hibernation.

“Well, this time of year bears are extra active because they’re preparing for winter denning season and they’re looking for food sources, so they’re coming into the lower elevations, they’re traveling along river corridors and they’re just looking for any and all food sources that they can find,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish

Tabish added two main food sources bears love this time of year are domestic fruit trees and unsecured garbage.

“By picking that stuff up and removing that food source the bears going to move on and hopefully head back out into the wild,” said Tabish.

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Tabish said the City of Whitefish is seeing a major uptick in bear conflicts, as a reported 19 black bears are getting into garbage and eating fruit.

“We’re just really trying to get the word out to residents to move or secure those food attractants,” added Tabish.

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Whitefish City Manager Dana Smith said garbage cans must be stored indoors until the day of collection under city ordinance.

“Under our municipal infractions for a first-time violation a civil penalty could be up to $300, and then each repeat violation can be up to $500,” said Smith.

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Tabish said it’s not only black bears, but a grizzly was also recently captured and moved near downtown Whitefish.

“We were able to capture and move that bear before it became food-conditioned, so we’re optimistic that bear is now going to stay out in the mountains, stay away from people and food rewards,” said Tabish.

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Tabish said residents can donate unwanted fruit to the FWP office in Kalispell between Sept. 20 and Sept. 24. The fruit will be given to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.

A Facebook page named Flathead Fruit Gleaning works to connect residents who want to pick up fruit with those who need fruit picked up. Learn more here.

FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish recounts a bear breaking into a vehicle in Polebridge



19 black bears are getting into garbage and eating fruit in Whitefish’s urban center:

  • An adult female with three cubs in the Wisconsin Avenue area
  • An adult female with two cubs in the Dakota, Minnesota & Iowa avenues
  • An adult female with two cubs in the Colorado Avenue area
  • An adult female with two cubs in the Baker Avenue area
  • An adult female with one cub in the State Park and Lion Mountain roads area
  • An adult bear in the Wisconsin Avenue area
  • An adult bear in the Ninth Street area
  • An adult bear in the East Lakeshore Drive area
  • An adult bear in the Dakota Avenue area


People are asked to report conflicts to one of the nearest FWP bear management specialists in your area. For a list of specialists, click here.

To report grizzly bear activity in Flathead County, call FWP bear management specialists at (406) 250-1265. To report black bear and mountain lion activity in Flathead County, call (406) 250-0062. To report bear activity in Sanders and Lincoln counties, call (406) 291-1320.

Click here for more information on being safe around bears.