HELENA — State wildlife officials announced recent sightings of grizzly bears in Big Sandy and also south of Lewistown.
It's a good reminder for outdoor recreationists, farmers, ranchers, and property owners to practice bear awareness and safety precautions this spring and summer.
The late April sighting of two grizzly bears near the town of Big Sandy, southwest of Havre, and normal bear activity along the Rocky Mountain Front show the need to be bear aware throughout western and central Montana.
A recent observation of a grizzly bear in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown was confirmed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service USFWS).
The confirmation is a reminder that grizzly bears are populating areas where they haven’t been for more than a century.
Bears are always on the lookout for a ready food source, ranging from unsecured garbage, spilled grain, carcasses, to sometimes, livestock.
FWP advises that landowners can haze grizzly bears off their property, but must do so without harming the bear, which typically means using loud noises and hard-sided vehicles.
In a press release, FWP says producers can reduce the risk of depredation by electric fencing, small calving pastures, pens, and corrals. Distributing livestock away from brushy cover and creeks during the spring and summer when bears frequently travel along these areas can also help.
Additionally, putting salt, mineral, and creep feeders out in the open away from brush and water can prevent problems. Electric fencing bone piles can also prevent bears from being drawn in near homes and herds.
In and around towns, attractants can include pet food, garbage, barbecue grills, and bird feeders. These sorts of items should be secured to prevent attracting wandering bears.
FWP specialists work to help landowners and communities avoid bear conflicts.
People recreating outdoors should be prepared to encounter a bear.
Here are some general tips to stay safe in bear country (recommended by FWP):
- Carry and know how to use bear spray
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return
- Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours
- Watch for signs of bears such as scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses
- Keep children close
- Make noise, especially when near streams or in thick vegetation where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present
- Use caution in areas where vision is limited by vegetation, geography, or structures
- Don't approach a bear; respect their space and move off
Visit the FWP "Bear Aware" page for more information.