Bear identification is not for black bear hunters alone these days. With grizzly bear numbers growing and populations expanding, more upland bird, deer and elk hunters are interested in being able to distinguish a grizzly from a black bear.
That's where Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks' Black Bear Identification training program on the Internet comes in handy. The bear identification program at www.fwp.state.mt.us/bearid is an educational tool anyone can use to hone bear identification skills.
Beyond sharpening bear identification skills, FWP strongly recommends that hunters review the new brochure "How to Hunt Safely In Grizzly Country." The brochure, available at all FWP offices, explains that in recent years the distribution of grizzly bears has expanded and today's hunters are more likely to encounter bears. Elk bugling, game calls and cover scents may increase the risk of encountering a grizzly bear unintentionally. Some safety tips include:
· Hunters in mountainous terrain can assume they're in grizzly country.
· If a hunter downs a deer or elk in grizzly country he or she should assume a bear will find it.
· If there is any indication that a grizzly bear is on the scene, hunters should leave the kill and report the incident and its location to FWP.
· Some grizzly bears may move toward gunshots anticipating a meal, so get the harvested elk or deer out of the area as quickly as possible.
· Carcasses left behind require special precautions to reduce the scent and to allow the returning hunter to clearly observe the area for a period of time from 200 yards away or more.
· Approach a carcass carefully after studying the area with binoculars for movement. If a grizzly bear is at the site, or if a bear has covered the carcass with debris, leave the carcass and report the incident to FWP. Hunters who loose an animal to a grizzly bear may be eligible for another license.
· Carcasses hung at a residence in bear country need to have the lowest portion of the meat swinging at least 10 feet off the ground, which requires a stout "meat pole" that is at least 25 feet off the ground.
· Do not attempt to haze or frighten a grizzly away, and always assume grizzlies are in the area and act accordingly.
For details on grizzly bear behavior, and a map of the general distribution of grizzlies in Montana, call your regional FWP office and request the brochure titled, "How To Hunt Safely In Grizzly Country." Information on this subject is also contained on page 24 of the 2002 Antelope, Deer, Elk Big Game Hunting Regulations booklet.