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Grizzly bear

Conservation > Species > Bear Bear Aware

 

Montana is bear country.

All bears are potentially dangerous. The majority of human-bear conflicts involve bears protecting their young or a food source. The overwhelming majority of bear encounters do not involve conflict.

Preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.

  • Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.

  • Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.

  • Know your bears. It is important to know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears, whether you are hunting or hiking. 

  • Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never intentionally get close to a bear. 

  • A properly constructed electrified fence is both safe for people, livestock and pets, and has proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock.

  • Follow the best practices listed below.


Recreating in Bear Country

Best practices for safely exploring the outdoors
  • Stay alert and look for bear activity, especially where visibility or hearing is limited (woods, bushy areas, streams).

  • Travel in a group and keep members together (especially kids).

  • Make noise whenever possible to avoid surprising a bear, especially where visibility or hearing is limited.

  • Carry bear spray close at hand and know how to use it.

  • Avoid traveling at night, dawn or dusk.

  • Avoid carcass sites and scavenger concentrations.


Camping 

Tips to keep bears and people safe
  • Keep food and anything with a scent out of tents.

  • Dispose of garbage in bear resistant bins; otherwise, take it with you and dispose of it properly elsewhere. Do not bury or burn garbage.

  • Follow local land management agency food storage orders and properly store unattended food and anything else with a scent. 

    • Food storage options are:

      • Bear boxes

      • Hard-sided vehicles (car, truck, RV). Avoid leaving attractants in vehicles for extended periods of time (backcountry trips).

      • IGBC-certified bear resistant containers

      • Electric fencing


Hunting

How to stay safe afield
  • Pack meat out as soon as possible.

  • Avoid cutting up carcass at dusk or night.

  • If you kill an animal at dusk, be prepared to cut up carcass in the dark by carrying strong headlamps. Be extra vigilant and watch for bears.

  • Properly hang meat until you can retrieve your downed game.

  • If you must leave your animal, return to the site carefully.  Leave it in an area that is easily observable from a distance.

  • Drag gut piles into open areas, if possible, and at least 100 yards from your carcass as soon as possible.

  • If a bear has claimed your animal, do not attempt to haze or frighten the bear away.  Report any lost game to FWP.

  • Bird hunters should be extra careful while walking in and along areas of brush because grizzly bears use thick cover for day beds - especially along waterways.  Bird hunters should, walk with the wind, carry bear spray, and should keep a close eye on hunting dogs.  If there is abundant fresh sign of grizzly bears in the area, consider bird hunting somewhere else.

  • Download: Hunting in Grizzly Bear Country (PDF)


Anglers

How to avoid a conflict
  • Do not clean fish in camp.

  • Pop air bladder and dispose of fish entrails in the stream or lake. Do not clean fish on picnic tables.


Mountain Bikers, Trail Runners & OHV Users

Best practices for riding and running
  • Anyone traveling quickly (mountain biker, trail runner) can be at high risk of surprising a bear.

  • Slow down and look ahead, especially in areas of dense vegetation, berry patches, and around blind corners.

  • Ride or run in daylight and in groups.

  • Make noise! Let bears hear you, especially where visibility is limited.


Agricultural (Farmers & Ranchers)

Safety tips to protect you and your property
  • To report livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services.

  • Download the latest US Fish and Wildlife Service hazing guidelines.

  • Storing and removing attractants, such as grain spills, food waste, and scented products, reduces the likelihood that bears will learn to associate buildings, silos and humans with food sources.

  • Grain spills can be easily cleaned up if a tarp is placed under loaders when transferring grain between trucks and silos.

  • Old grain should be disposed of through sanitation services, burning, or dumping away from people, buildings, and livestock.

  • Do not leave out pet food or livestock feed, such as grain, sweet feed, or supplements.

  • Secure chemicals such as pesticides, herbicides, biodiesel, and other products.

  • Many attractants can be secured in a hard-sided building. Locks can easily be added to any door with a hasp, padlock or carabineer. Screws or nails protruding out from the door can deter a bear. An unwelcome mat (piece of wood with nails facing up) can also deter a bear.

  • Carcasses and afterbirth should be disposed of through sanitation services, in an electrified boneyard, or by distributing away from people, buildings, and livestock. Electric fence should be placed around carcass and bone piles until they can be removed.

  • Install electric fence around vulnerable animals and non-removable attractants such as birthing grounds, sheep-bedding areas, bee aviaries, compost piles, gardens, fruit trees, berry bushes, and corn fields.

  • Young, injured, sick, and/or weak animals should be kept away from areas with thick tree and shrub coverage, such as riparian areas (along streams, ponds, and drainages) from spring to fall, when grizzly bears are more active, and livestock are more vulnerable.

  • Creep feeders, molasses, and mineral blocks should be placed in open areas where livestock can easily view the area before entering. Placement away from brush decreases the chance of livestock loss and reduces the chance of a bear using these products.

  • Calving seasons can be shifted to earlier or later times of the year when bears are less active. Calving and lambing grounds should be in open areas with good visibility and away from bear travel corridors.

  • Range-riders and livestock guard dogs/donkeys can greatly decrease the odds of livestock loss.

  • Shelterbelts/windrows should be maintained annually to prevent them from becoming overgrown as grizzly bears seek out thick patches of brush for bedding.

  • Don’t let grizzly bears linger in your yard because this can lead to habituation.

  • Notify your neighbors if you do observe a grizzly bear in the area to help make others aware.


Living in Bear Country

How to avoid attracting bears to your property
  • Properly store garbage in an IGBC-certified bear resistant bin or in a secured building (4 walls, roof and door with latch) at all times, until the day of disposal.

  • Avoid leaving attractants next to windows, doors, or outside walls.

  • Do not leave out pet food, bird feeders and bird seed, or BBQ’s.

  • Bears are attracted to fruit-bearing trees and bushes, gardens, and compost piles. Install an effective and maintained electric fencing. Pick fruit immediately once it is ripe.

  • Secure vulnerable livestock (chickens, goats, sheep) with an electric fence.

Methods for Securing Attractants:

Bears are curious, and food driven. Feeding bears puts people and bears at risk. Securing attractants will greatly reduce the chances of a conflict with a bear.

  • In a hard-sided building, shed or barn with a securable door. Doors can be easily secured with a hasp and carabiner or latch mechanism.

  • In a steel drum with locking lid, or another bear-resistant container.

  • Within an effective and maintained electric fence.

    • Can be portable or permanent

    • Come in a variety of styles including mesh or multiple-strand operations

    • Can be added to permanent fence structures

    • Three strands of electricity to an existing fence or five strands for a standalone fence are recommended to deter a bear

    • FWP can assist with design and installation

    • Partial cost reimbursement programs are available

    • Click here to view a video about electric fencing.

    • Download: Electric fence guide

  • Bear-resistant containers certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee are effective for proper storage.

  • Nails and screws facing outward from building and silo doors or on boards on the ground may deter a bear from attempting entry.

  • Deterrents and repellents can be used to deter grizzly bears from an area and include:

    • Motion activated sirens or lights

    • Loud noises

    • Electrified "Unwelcome" mat


Bear Encounters

Be prepared to deal with bear encounters.

In an encounter, the bear’s behavior, rather than its species, should determine how you respond.

  • In any bear encounter, your behavior matters.  Bears respond to your actions. During an encounter with a bear:

  • Never run away. You cannot outrun a bear. Running may trigger a bear to chase.

  • Never approach the bear

  • Different situations call for different responses.

  • If you see a bear at a distance, the bear appears unaware of you and you can move away undetected, do so quietly when the bear is not looking toward you.

  • If you cannot avoid a bear that sees you, stand your ground and watch its behavior. Move away when it disengages.

 

What to do in an encounter
If a bear is not actively engaged with you (looking away, ignoring you, running away or retreating)
  • Give the bear space by backing away slowly from the bear and going in the opposite direction of the bear.

 

If a bear shows agitated/defensive behavior (huffing, jaws clacking, head swaying back and forth, bellowing, swatting the ground, and excessively salivating at the mouth)
  • Stand your ground, prepare your bear spray, and speak in a calm manner, until the bear retreats.

 

If a bear charges or appears ready to charge:
  • Stand your ground.

  • If it charges, use your bear spray, when the bear comes within 30-60 feet.

  • If the bear is going to touch you, go face down on the ground, cover your neck and head as much as possible, and deploy your bear spray in the bear’s face.  If you do not have bear spray, play dead if it is a grizzly bear, fight back if it is a black bear.

 

If a bear follows you, or slowly, purposefully or methodically approaches you:
  • Stand your ground.

  • Get aggressive: wave your arms and shout vigorously.

  • Get spray out and ready.

  • Fight back if it makes contact.

 

If a bear enters or reaches into your tent:
  • Use your bear spray.

  • Fight back.

Carry Bear Spray and Know How to Use it

Bear spray is a very effective deterrent when used properly. The efficacy of bear spray depends on the situation and circumstances of the situation. Bear spray is only effective when used as an airborne deterrent sprayed as a cloud at an aggressive animal.