Unusually mild Montana weather has kept black bears and grizzly bears busy, awake and looking for easy meals this fall—and the bears' natural urge to hibernate appears to be weeks away.
"That means hunters need to be especially cautious, even into November," said Ron Aasheim, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks spokesman in Helena. "Bears are very active this fall, so hunters need to expect to see them and be well prepared to successfully deal with an encounter."
The extremely dry summer and numerous wildfires have left bears scrambling for food before they hibernate. Bears may be found foraging along waterways in the brush as well as in mountainous settings at this time of year.
"Deer and elk hunters need to be alert for signs of bears and prepare by carrying bear spray," Aasheim said.
FWP urges hunters to avoid potential conflicts with bears by taking appropriate precautions.
• Always carry bear spray, have it close at hand and know how to use it.
• Hunt with a partner or let someone know your plans and periodically check in.
• When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
• Get harvested game out of the woods quickly.
• Carry a lightweight tarp or space blanket to put the entails on and pull them well away from the carcass.
• When returning to a site where harvested game is left unattended, study the site at a distance for any movement or changes and signal your approach by making plenty of noise.
• If a bear has claimed the carcass, leave it alone and contact FWP immediately.
For more on hunting in bear country, check the Montana big game hunting regulations available online at fwp.mt.gov, or from most FWP offices and license providers. "How to Hunt Safely in Grizzly Country" brochures are also available at most FWP regional offices.