GREAT FALLS — Two grizzly bears were killed by black bear hunters last week on the Rocky Mountain Front west of Great Falls. Both incidents are being investigated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
The circumstances of each incident are not yet available, pending the results of the investigations, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP). In one incident a male bear was killed. In the other, the grizzly bear killed was a female. No cubs were found.
FWP says that grizzly bears are expanding into more places in Montana, and people are also heading outdoors in higher numbers right now, which means it is important to review bear safety and identification tips.
Knowing how to correctly identify bear is also extremely important. Grizzly bears are a threatened species, and intentionally or accidentally killing a grizzly bear is illegal, unless it’s done in self-defense.
When black bear hunting, correct identification is critical. Montana has no grizzly bear hunting season. The spring black bear hunting season ended May 31 in some areas and continues through June 15 in other areas.
Montana black bear hunting regulations require that all black bear hunters be tested to ensure they can spot the subtle differences between black bears and grizzly bears. A hunter must present a passing certificate from the black bear identification test to purchase a black bear tag.
FWP provides the following information about bear identification and hunting:
- Color is no indication of species. Grizzly bears can look black and black bears are commonly lighter in color.
- Size is not a good indicator. Grizzly bears can be smaller than adult black bears.
- Make completely sure of the bear species before you fire. Angle, light, and weather are all things that can make it difficult to identify a bear. Make sure all these and any other factors are taken into consideration when assuring your target.
- It is illegal to shoot a female black bear with cubs. Make sure you’re certain of the bear species and sex before you shoot.
- Hunting puts you at risk of encountering a bear. Calling game and using scents may attract bears.
- If you hunt alone, let someone know about your plans. If you feel uneasy hunting alone, hunt with a partner.
All outdoor recreationists, including hikers, anglers, floaters, campers, mountain bikers and hunters, should be prepared for a bear encounter and know what to do.
- Be aware of your surroundings and look for bear sign.
- Carry and know how to use bear spray ( video )
- Travel in groups and make noise whenever possible.
- Stay away from animal carcasses.
- Follow U.S. Forest Service food storage regulations.
- If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Back away slowly and leave the area.
Around home, FWP reminds homeowners to keep food attractants secured. Attractants include garbage, pet and livestock food, birdfeeders, and fruit trees, but also include livestock, gardens, and outdoor food cookers.
Chickens and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door. Bears that have easy access to backyard attractants tend to stay around, which leads to human safety concerns and sometimes the need to relocate or euthanize bears if they become hooked on these backyard foods instead of natural sources.