Hunters heading afield this fall in western Montana "could just as likely run into a grizzly bear as not" according to Bill Thomas, information officer for Fish, Wildlife & Parks in Missoula. Grizzlies are widely dispersed and moving around a lot this year, thus "increasing the odds of a conflict and the need for hunters to take precautions to avoid a problem," he explained.
Thomas said "it's really up to people to assume the responsibility to avoid a conflict" by following these precautions:
All food and beverages; including canned food, pop, beer, garbage, grease, processed livestock or pet food, and scented or flavored toiletries (toothpaste, chapstick) must be stored or made unavailable to bears at night and when unattended during the day.
Never bury garbage. Store it as you would food and pack it out.
Attractants must be hung at least 10 feet off the ground and four feet from any vertical support, or stored inside an approved bear-resistant container. Coolers, pop-up campers and tents are NOT considered bear resistant!
All wildlife carcasses, or parts or carcasses, must be stored like food, but the point of storage must be at least 100 yards from any sleeping area, trail or recreation site and, preferably, down wind.
Avoid hunting alone. Travel in pairs whenever possible.
Learn to recognize bear sign and avoid areas with fresh scat, diggings, tracks or carcasses.
Be cautious in dense timber or brush and along creeks.
If you see or smell a carcass or gut pile, don't investigate it; make a wide circle around it.
People who use horses usually have fewer problems with bears.
Always remain alert, especially at the end of a long day.
Carry bear-repellent pepper spray.
AFTER THE KILL:
Gut, pack and remove the carcass from the area as soon as possible.
Separate the carcass from the gut pile.
Never leave the gut pile or carcass near a trail.
If you have to leave the carcass overnight, hang it at least 10 feet off the ground.
If you are one-half mile from a trail or sleeping area, you can leave it on the ground, but you risk a bear claiming your game.
Always leave the carcass where you can see it from a distance and where you can approach it from upwind. Observe the carcass for a while before approaching it. You may want to leave an article of clothing around the carcass to discourage a bear from approaching it.
If you encounter a bear --
First try to slowly back out of the situation. Keep calm, avoid direct eye contact, back up slowly and speak in a soft monotone voice. Never turn your back to the bear and never kneel down. Most encounters end with the bear leaving the area. NEVER RUN, and do not try to climb a tree unless you are sure you can climb to at least 10 feet before the bear reaches you.
If a bear charges, stand your ground. Bears often "bluff charge" or run past you. The bear may charge several times before leaving the area. Shooting a charging bear should be your last resort. Shot placement is very difficult and the bear almost always lives long enough to maul the shooter. A wounded bear can be very dangerous.
Bear-repellent pepper spray has proven very effective in warding off charging bears. It is available at most sporting goods stores in the area. Have it available and know how to use it.
As a last resort, play dead. Curl into a ball or lie flat, covering your neck and head with your hands and arms. Many people have survived bear attacks using this method.
Report all bear encounters to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks or the U.S. Forest Service, no matter how insignificant. Your report may help wildlife managers prevent further encounters.