Grizzly bears have begun to emerge from their long winter's sleep along the Rocky Mountain Front, says a Montana bear biologist.
"Several bears are out," says Mike Madel, wildlife biologist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Region 4, north central Montana.
At least one female grizzly with year-old cubs is out -- an early emergence which is becoming more common than in past years.
In early spring, both black and grizzly bears will search out any food source, often grass or carcasses of winter killed animals. Madel says the foothills along the Front are still brown so the bears have followed the streams out from the Front. In some cases the bears are 10 to 15 miles out from the front.
"Usually, the foothills green up at the same time, but not this year," Madel says. To keep the bears out of trouble, Madel works with area ranchers to remove livestock carcasses that have accumulated during the past winter. The carcasses are taken to areas away from calving and lambing operations.
Madel reminds black bear hunters along the Front this spring they need to be aware that both bear species are out.
Because grizzly bears and black bears sometimes inhabit the same areas, and because the species of bear can often be difficult to distinguish, hunters should take extra precautions when pursuing black bears in grizzly country. Grizzlies have claws 3 to 4 inches long; black bears' are shorter at 1 to 2 inches. Grizzlies have a dished in face; the face of a black bear has a straight profile. Grizzlies have a hump between the front shoulders while black bears have no hump. For more hints on ways to distinguish grizzlies from black bears, hunters can contact any FWP office.
Montana's spring black bear season begin April 15. Montana has no grizzly bear hunting season.