How to stay bear safe during Montana's summer months

Posted at 5:15 PM, Jul 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-27 19:15:19-04

MISSOULA — A black bear was recently was put down after entering someone's house in the Rattlesnake.

MTN News found out what homeowners can do to keep themselves and the bears safe moving forward.

“There's probably more bear activity and more lion activity on the edges of Missoula there than there are in some of the other areas of Montana," said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) wildlife management specialist Jamie Jonkel. "And that reason being we have just such phenomenal wildlife habitat here.”

We all need to be bear aware. But with new people moving to town and coming and going of college students, it's sometimes a challenge to keep everyone on the same page about bear safety.

“Just when folks are starting to go 'okay, I see now I get it' they move, and they sell," Jonkel said. "And so we constantly see this turnaround.”

FWP relocates bears if they do not think they will cause problems. In extreme cases, they put them down or euthanize them. Jonkel explained they only do this if they see a shift in the behavior of the bear, like showing aggression to find food.

“But not all bears get to that level, and not all bears we trap are the target bears,” said Jonkel.

Bears need to eat a lot of food in order to hibernate in the winter months and Jonkel worries that there isn’t going to be enough of that due to early blooms.

That could start a bear food crisis and we could see an uptick in the number of bears coming to the Missoula Valley this fall.

“What we're seeing right now might be 10 times worse come October. Instead of just having, you know, a portion of the population down in the valley floors will have all the population down in the valley floors,” Jonkel told MTN News.

He noted that FWP normally puts down about two years a year, but this can mostly be avoided if people lock up your trash cans, take down your bird feeders, protect your animals like goats and chickens and be aware of your surroundings at all times.