The 1998 spring black bear hunting season opens in most areas of Montana on April 15, and in a change to regulations that takes effect this year, hunters who plan to take part in the spring hunt must buy their licenses by April 14. There is no hunting season in Montana for grizzly bears, so Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials encourage all spring bear hunters to take extra care to determine the species of bear that may be in their sights.
A regulation that took effect in 1996 requires successful hunters to utilize the meat from black bears they harvest. Like the meat from elk, deer, and most other big game animals, bear meat cannot be wasted, thrown away or left in the field.
Specifically, the regulation prohibits hunters from wasting black bear meat unless the meat is determined to contain Trichinella. Trichinella is a parasitic disease found in 15 percent of Montana's black bears. An optional free-of-charge testing service for Trichinella is offered through Montana State University and Fish, Wildlife & Parks.
Information on Trichinella and instructions on how to submit samples for testing are available at all Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices. Bear meat must be tagged and kept in an edible condition until test results are obtained. Hunters will be notified of the results by mail.
FWP officials remind hunters that duplicate licenses will not be issued to hunters who take bears with meat that is found to be infected with Trichinella.
In another change for 1998, successful black bear hunters will receive a hide tag from the FWP official who inspects their harvested bear, the skull and hide of which must, by law, be presented for inspection within five days of the date of the kill. This tag will remain with the hide of the bear, while the hunter's validated license will remain with the meat. As a point of clarification, although 1998 black bear regulations state that the entire carcass of the harvested bear must be presented for inspection by the FWP official, that is not the case--only the hide and skull must be presented for inspection.
Other aspects of Montana's spring black bear hunting season to remember are: