MISSOULA - Missoula has seen more bears than normal coming into the heart of the city.
One reason is a lack of food supply for the animals and at Bernice's Bakery, the issue is getting worse one garbage bag at a time.
“We’ve had them come up all the way up to the back door,” said Joe Smith, the head baker at Bernice’s Bakery. “Right to the back door, it’s kind of scary.”
Every night and every morning, Smith shows up to work and finds food pulled from the garbage. The culprit is a large black bear.
“They just jump on top of this, and they push it down. I don't know how they do it. They're so strong and then they pull the garbage out and drag it along this trail here,” Smith told MTN News. “It's a mess every day and we have to clean it up and we just don't have the time.”
Bernice’s Bakery is a pot of gold for the black bears who find themselves wandering into the Garden City from Hellgate Canyon.
“And not only is it our garbage, but it's the tenants from this building and that building so we all share the garbage that's why we don't have a lock on it, you know?” Smith said. “But I think they could still get in if it was locked.”
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) have captured two bears poking around in the garbage can.
They are setting more traps, but as FWP Wildlife Management Specialist Jamie Jonkel says, word must have gotten out and since then an additional five bears have gotten into the garbage of Bernice’s Bakery.
“I'm more worried about the black bear itself, you know, and what is gonna happen to it because once they become acclimated to trash, I just worry about him and the people,” Smith said.
Bernice’s Bakery is not a part of the bear buffer zone, but Jonkel suggests people and businesses in the heart of the city be aware and take precautions like using bear-safe garbage cans.