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Feeding Bears Is Dangerous For Bears And People


Fri Jun 22 00:00:00 MDT 2001

Homes next to Montana's forests or wild lands are often within bear country. Bears also may occasionally wander into towns and neighborhoods searching for food. Anything people or their pets eat will attract bears -- quick learners that make it a habit of returning to these sources of food over and over. These "food conditioned" bears are removed and relocated but frequently return and eventually are destroyed to protect the public safety. People who live in or near bear habitat can prevent good bears from learning bad-bear behavior by eliminating bear attractants. Here are some tips.

Around the Yard:

  • Food from barbeques and picnics should not be left outdoors unattended, especially overnight.
  • Coolers are not bear-proof.
  • Birdfeeders attract bears. Eliminate them or hang them 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees and with a rope and pulley system for refilling them and clean up seeds that spill onto the ground.
  • Birdfeeders should be taken down between April 1 and December 1.
  • Replace hummingbird feeders with hanging flower baskets.
  • Pet food should be stored inside and pets fed inside. If you must feed a pet outdoors, feed only as much as they will eat to avoid leaving dishes full of food, sweep up any spilled food immediately and bring bowls in at night.
  • At night, pick up dog bones with meat on them from the backyard and kennel.
  • Barbeque grills should be cleaned and stored after each use in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
  • Fruit should be picked from trees when ripe and fallen fruit immediately collected. Do not allow fruit to rot on the ground.
  • Compost piles should be limited to grass, leaves, and garden clippings, and turn piles regularly. Adding lime can reduce smells and help decomposition. Do not add food scraps. Kitchen scraps can be composted indoors in a worm box with minimum odor and the finished compost can later be added to garden soil.
  • Gardens should be harvested immediately as vegetables, fruits and herbs mature. Locate gardens away from forests and shrubs that bears may use for cover. DO not use blood meal.
  • Landscaping, especially clover and dandelions will attract bears. Use native plant landscaping whenever possible, and do not seed in clover.
  • Beehives, honey and bee larvae are especially attractive to bars. If you keep hives, elevate them on bear-proof platforms or erect properly designed electric fences.
  • Do not put out feed for wildlife (corn, oats, pellets, 3-way, molasses blocks).


  • Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters.
  • Or, store food-related garbage in a secure building bears can't get into away from windows and doors.
  • Keep garbage inside secure building until morning of pickup.
  • Store empty recyclable containers, such as pop cans, indoors-the sweet smells attract bears.
  • Decrease odors by storing garbage in tightly tied, heavy-duty bags, and garbage cans with tight lids.
  • Remove garbage regularly.
  • Store especially smelly garbage, such as meat or fish scraps, in a freezer until they can be taken to a refuse site.