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Bears seen making the rounds in Missoula

Posted at 2:29 PM, Oct 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-10-22 16:29:10-04

The South Hills, the UM Golf Course, and the Rattlesnake are all places where people have seen black bears this past week.

One scared bear even tried to climb the walls of Saint Patrick Hospital.

Experts say the animal was likely trying to escape the flashing lights of cop cars and people taking photos on their cell phones.

Montana Fish, WIldlife and Parks Wildlife management specialist Jamie Jonkel and his team believe the bear was trying to find his way to the river.

"If it's at 6:30 in the morning just as traffic's starting, they can be bumped and they can sort of rush north, rush south and get caught in the middle of town," Jonkel said.

"We get that every year. And I think that bear at St.Pat's the other day was just a bear lost in humanity."

Jonkel told MTN News that if the bear had not encountered people it likely would have continued through town the river, eaten its fill of berries and then been on its way causing no incident.

He says its the abundance of apples and berries that brings these bears down every year into town.

"To use the habitat they have to ignore us because we're everywhere. So in order to eat the serviceberry along the river, or the choke cherry, they have to put up with the 15 vehicles that go by every half hour- the hikers and all the activity. So they become complacent in order to use the habitat. "

Jonkel says it is important to note that though these animals are coming into town there is a big difference between a bear that will tolerate being near people for food and a bear that seeks out populated areas to find it.

"It doesn't take much to turn them from an apple bear to a garbage bear. We had to put a bear down last week that I think was being fed," Jonkel said.

He reminds people to continue to lock up their trash and put up electric fences around orchards.

The bear that was seen at Saint Patrick Hospital was able to make it to the river after FWP wardens disbanded the crowd. The next morning the bear left the area.