As spring turns to summer, bear activity is picking up in many western Montana neighborhoods, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to keep bear attractants contained.
Bears are often drawn to populated areas by unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders and dirty barbecue grills.
“When bears find these easy neighborhood food sources, they can have a hard time returning to natural food,” says FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel. “The best solution is to keep a bear from getting that first taste of backyard goodies. Garbage-conditioned bears will often travel miles to get back to a garbage can.”
Jonkel says that little steps can go a long way in preventing a neighborhood bear problem. He recommends keeping pet food inside except at feeding time, cleaning dirty barbeque grills, taking down bird feeders, making sure your compost pile is not laden with food scraps and keeping garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or in a secure building until trash collection.
Jonkel hopes that as time passes and more people learn how to bear proof their properties, fewer bears will encounter and become addicted to these backyard attractants.
“Overall we’ve seen conflicts decrease as more residents have learned what attracts bears and how to keep these things out of a bear’s reach,” said Jonkel.
Residents on the fringe or living in bear habitat should be recognized for the steps they are taking. Jonkel points to community bear aware groups that have formed around western Montana as a key way to increase local awareness about bear activity and to prevent conflict. He encourages more communities and watersheds to form such groups.
To learn more about bear proofing backyards and neighborhoods, and what systems, such as bear-resistant garbage cans or electric fence kits, may be needed to keep attractants off-limits, visit or call the nearest regional FWP office. Or, go to the FWP website's Be Bear Aware page at fwp.mt.gov.