GREAT FALLS — Bear tracks and hair samples collected in the North Moccasin Mountains near Lewistown confirm the presence of a grizzly bear in the area, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (FWP) officials said in a news release on Tuesday.
Bear tracks from the west side of the mountain range were reported to FWP on April 29. An FWP grizzly bear management specialist visited the location on April 30 and confirmed the 6¼-inch-wide tracks were made by a grizzly bear.
“Having a grizzly bear in this area is not surprising after what we’ve seen the last few years in terms of bears moving further east into central Montana,” said Gary Bertellotti, FWP regional supervisor.
After tracks confirmed the species of the bear, FWP spoke with neighboring property owners to notify them of the bear’s presence, identify any potential conflicts, and search for additional grizzly sign.
Hair collected from a barbed-wire fence along a riparian area nearby was also identified as belonging to a grizzly.
Bear management specialists also worked with area landowners to identify and secure potential human-related food sources, install trail cameras on likely travel routes and food sources, and discuss safety for farming and ranching in the area. Bear spray was given to all landowners contacted by FWP.
This is the first confirmation of a grizzly in the North Moccasin Mountains in recent years. Last spring a grizzly bear was confirmed to have killed cattle in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown. That bear was later trapped and euthanized.
A trail camera photo of a grizzly bear was reported to have been taken in the same mountain range in early April, although FWP was not able to identify the owner of the photograph to investigate the report.
In more and more of central Montana, area residents may consider such precautions as carrying bear spray while working and recreating and practicing conflict prevention techniques such as removing livestock carcasses and open grain sources and installing electric fencing around potential attractants.
Grizzly bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and final authority regarding management actions are up to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. If you see a bear or bear sign near your residence or need to report a conflict, you're asked to call a bear specialist at the contact number found on FWP’s website.
Bear activity is increasing across the state. Farmers, ranchers, homeowners and outdoor recreationists should be prepared to encounter bears anywhere in western Montana as their population and range continues to expand. Here are some general tips to avoid conflicts in agricultural areas:
- Grizzly bears can be deterred from areas near homes using USFWS guidelines for hazing grizzly bears, found here [lnks.gd]. This helps reinforce bears’ fear of people.
- Place tarps under loaders when transferring grain to prevent spills.
- Dispose of old grain through sanitation services, burning or dumping away from people, buildings and livestock.
- Dispose of carcasses and afterbirth through sanitation services, inside an electrified boneyard or by distributing away from people, buildings and livestock.
- If possible, secure domestic animals within an electric fence when unattended by people or at night. This includes poultry, goats, sheep or rabbits.
- Place creep feeders, molasses and mineral blocks in open areas where humans and livestock can easily view the area before entering.
- Don’t feed pets outdoors and secure any pet or livestock feed in a secure building.
- Remove bird feeders from April through November.
- Don’t let grizzly bears linger in proximity of your home or other structures because this can lead to habituation. Call an FWP specialist to help deter bears if you are not comfortable or able to do so.
- Notify your neighbors if you see a grizzly bear in the area to help make others aware.
- Domestic fruit should be picked as soon as possible, and any fallen fruit removed.
- Folks are urged to “Be Bear Aware” when working or recreating outside by following precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it, and traveling in groups while making noise.
For more information on living, working and recreating in Montana’s bear country, visit the FWP Bear Aware website.