April is the month that grizzly and black bears wake from hibernation and move out of their dens. FWP Region 3 bear manager in Bozeman Kevin Frey said there are reports of black bears near Gardiner, West Yellowstone, Gallatin Canyon and in Yellowstone National Park and some grizzly bears are showing up in the lower elevations.
"Now is the time for residents who live in bear country to check around their homes and outbuildings, putting away any grain, dog food, birdseed, compost or open garbage receptacles," Frey said. "Bears that find these attractants and get used to being around humans usually end up having to be relocated or destroyed for these 'problem' behaviors."
Frey also warns spring horn hunters and recreationists to be alert for grizzly bears around winter-killed deer or elk carcasses. Avoid these carcasses to reduce the chances of encountering a grizzly bear.
Grizzlies benefited from good whitebark pine-cone crops last fall and that reduced food conflicts and improved the bears' physical condition this winter and spring. Frey said denned black bears observed by federal bear researchers in south central Montana near Yellowstone do not appear to be in good condition.
"We had fairly poor black bear foods last fall due to the drought," he said. "These underfed bears are more likely to get into trouble." He advised residents in areas hit hard by last summer's drought to be especially careful to keep all bear attractants stored where bears can’t get to them. Black bears are just beginning to be observed.
In FWP Region 4 along the Eastern Rocky Mountain Front in the Choteau area, FWP bear manager Mike Madel is also seeing some bears.
Madel said the annual carcass redistribution program along the Eastern Rocky Mountain Front is going into full swing.
"Every year we work with area ranchers to move carcasses onto FWP’s Wildlife Management Areas for the grizzly bears to feed on. The carcasses are distributed randomly so the bears don’t learn to return to the same place every year," said Madel. Since he started redistributing carcasses in the spring, Madel has seen grizzly bear conflicts with humans go down by 50 to 60 percent.
Snow conditions are at or above normal along the Eastern Rocky Mountain Front and Madel predicts most bears in the area will emerge in mid-April to early May.
Tim Manley, FWP Region 1 grizzly bear manager in northwestern Montana, says bears in that area are also beginning to move out of their dens, though snow cover remains in the high country.
FWP’s bear managers urge residents in bear country to secure all foods that would attract bears. It is a violation of Montana law to intentionally feed wild game, including bears. To protect yourself and the bears in the state:
· Secure garbage inside a garage,
· Bring pet food in at night,
· Cleanup livestock food,
· Bring in bird feeders for the season, clean up spilled seed,
· Haul any livestock carcasses or winter-killed wildlife on ranches to the most remote areas of the ranch away from residences or work areas.