Most Wildlife Management Areas to open May 15

Posted at 4:50 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:04:22-04

The Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area (WMA) will open at noon on Friday, June 1 this year, instead of the regularly scheduled opening of May 15.

Persistent snow, a slow spring thaw and extremely wet roads have prompted the extended closure.

The extended closure to all public entry pertains to that portion of the WMA bounded by Clearwater Junction on its southwest corner, generally lying north of Highway 200, east of Highway 83, and south and west of Woodworth Road.

The portion of the WMA within these bounds will be closed to all public entry, whether by foot or other means, until noon on June 1.

Also included in the extended closure is that portion of the WMA lying west of Highway 83 along the west shore of the Clearwater River.

That portion of the WMA will be closed to vehicles until noon on June 1, due to wet roads, but is open for the public to travel on foot without the use of bikes or other vehicles.

All Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 4 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) will open to the public at noon, May 15.

That includes the popular Sun River WMA west of Augusta. Recent warm weather has opened some backcountry areas west of the Sun River WMA where elk traditionally go to calve and spend their summer months. The roads have cleared, though visitors are advised to expect muddy, spring conditions.

Until May 15, all WMA’s remain closed to the public. Anyone found on the WMA’s before that date could be subject to prosecution.

Once the WMA’s open, antler hunters should be aware of the possibility of bears, especially grizzlies on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Most of Montana’s 76 Wildlife Management Areas open May 15, and with the long winter and heavy snowpack wildlife still have limited areas, in some places, left to forage.

People who are looking to get out to the WMAs this time of year should remember to keep vigilant to avoid conflicts with wildlife, particularly bears.

Bears, elk and shed-antler hunters will be sharing the same space once the WMAs open. Shed hunting on WMAs remains a popular activity.

For more information about WMAs, visit

Be bear aware when recreating outdoors

Grizzly bears are out and about. In the last two weeks, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured four grizzly bears in western Montana that were causing conflicts.

Grizzlies can be found throughout western Montana, not just the Rocky Mountain Front, Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Yellowstone Ecosystem. In recent years grizzly bear populations have expanded and bears are showing up in places they’ve not been for decades.

After a long winter, humans and wildlife are active in the outdoors, and with the heavy snowpack still receding in much of the state, humans and wildlife are sharing the same space. Whether you’re heading outdoors to hunt turkey, black bear, shed antlers or mushrooms, please be bear aware.

Here are some general tips to stay safe in bear country:

  • Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
  • Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  • Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
  • Stay on trails or rural roads.
  • Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
  • Keep children close.
  • Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
  • Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
  • Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off

If you are camping in bear country, follow these guidelines:

  • Camp away from trails and areas where you see grizzly signs.
  • Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
  • Avoid cooking smelly foods.
  • Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container.
  • Livestock feed should be treated the same as human food.
  • Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.

Anglers also need to practice safe behavior in bear country:

  • Don’t leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes and streams.
  • Sink entrails in deep water.
  • If you don’t properly dispose of entrails you increase danger to yourself and to the next person to use the area.