Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Spring weather is near and we are all looking forward to heading outdoors. However, bears are also leaving their winter dens this time of year. They’re waking up from hibernation and their stomachs are rumbling. It is super important not to leave out anything that will attract their appetite or their curiosity. 

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Information Specialist Danielle Oyler, you need to be aware that bears are around when you’re outside working or recreating. 

“Being bear aware means that you assume bears can be around, even if you don’t see them,” Oyler said. “You shouldn’t leave anything around your home or campsite that will attract a bear.” 

Oyler said these attractants include garbage, bird feeders, and pet food. She said the most common human-bear conflicts involve unsecured food attractants. 

“Bears can be found throughout Montana,” Oyler said. “In recent years, grizzly bear populations have expanded and can be found anywhere west of Billings. Most bears want to avoid contact with people, but the best thing to do to avoid an unpleasant encounter with a bear is to assume bears are around and be prepared.” 

Carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it is crucial. 

“Deploy the spray when the bear is about 25 feet away,” Oyler said. “If you feel threatened, stand your ground and use your bear spray.”  

Here are some general tips from FWP to stay bear aware: 

  • Travel in groups whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours. 
  • Avoid carcass sites and concentrations of ravens and other scavengers. 
  • Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs, turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses. 
  • Make noise, especially near streams or in thick forests where hearing and visibility are impaired. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present. 
  • Don't approach a bear. 

Camping in Bear Country: 

  • Keep food and anything with a scent out of tents.  
  • Dispose of garbage in bear-resistant containers; otherwise, take it with you and dispose of it properly elsewhere. Do not bury or burn garbage.  
  • 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)  
  • Certified bear-resistant containers  
  • Electric fencing  

Fishing in Bear Country: 

  • Make noise when approaching streams or rivers where visibility is poor and/or rushing water makes it difficult for bears to hear you approaching.  
  • Carry bear spray on you, especially if you are wading or shore fishing.  
  • When possible, clean fish at a designated fish-cleaning station, or at home.  
  • If you live in bear country, place entrails and fish waste into the freezer until the morning of garbage day. Do not leave fish waste outside in garbage cans for multiple days, as bears will be attracted to the smell.  
  • Cut filleted fish carcasses into smaller pieces that can be easily carried away in the current.  
  • Toss all fish waste into deep, fast-moving currents. Do not leave entrails or other fish waste on the bank or in shallow water.  
  • Store fish on ice in a certified bear-proof container. Coolers are not bear-proof. If you use a cooler, keep it near you and closely attend to it.  

Biking and running in Bear Country: 

  • Anyone traveling quickly on trails is at higher risk of surprising a bear.  
  • Traveling fast around corners can increase the chance of an encounter.  
  • Watch for signs of bear activity and avoid riding in these areas.  
  • Avoid being on trails at night or at dusk or dawn.  
  • Avoid riding fast on trails that feature seasonal food sources for bears, such as berries.  
  • Do not run or ride while intentionally impacting your ability to hear natural noises (i.e. wearing earbuds or headphones).  
  • Make noise when line of sight is poor.  
  • When possible, ride in groups and stay together.  
  • If you encounter a bear, stop, get off your bike, and follow bear encounter recommendations.  
  • Never try to outrun or outride a bear.  
  • Carry bear spray on your person, not on your bicycle or backpack. 

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