LEWISTOWN — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) hosted a public meeting in Lewistown on Monday evening to discuss grizzly bear awareness, including how to minimize conflict.
FWP says that during the last several years, grizzly bears have expanded away from recovery zones, including to the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
In late April, a grizzly bear was seen in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown.
The sighting is a reminder that grizzly bears are populating areas where they haven’t been for more than a century, and sightings may become more frequent as populations expand.
FWP bear management specialist Wesley Sarmento gave a presentation on the background of grizzly bears in Montana, how the department manages grizzly bear conflict, and the challenges of grizzly expansion on the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Sarmento also presented other tips to keep people safe around bears, including:
- Rural farmsteads should be kept as clean as possible by securing attractants such as garbage, bird feeders and pet food.
- Grain spills are a major attractant to grizzly bears but can be easily cleaned up by putting tarps under loading equipment.
- Landowners may haze grizzly bears off their property from the safety of a hard-sided vehicle or with loud noises, provided the federally protected animal is not harmed in the process.
- Chickens and other small livestock can be easily protected with electric fencing or kept inside a closed shed with a door at night.
- Livestock loss can also be prevented by distributing animals and feed away from brush and rivers during the months when bears are active.
- Domestic fruit should be picked up as soon as possible.
- People 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.
If you see a bear near your residence in central or north central Montana, you are asked to report it to Sarmento at 406-450-1097, Chad White at 406-788-4755, or your nearest FWP office.