As spring turns to summer, bear activity is picking up in many western Montana neighborhoods, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to continue to keep bear attractants contained.

Bears are often drawn to populated areas by unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders and dirty barbecue grills.

“When bears find these easy neighborhood food sources, they can have a hard time returning to natural food,” says FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel. “The best solution is to keep a bear from getting that first taste of backyard goodies. Garbage-conditioned bears will often travel miles to get back to a garbage can.”

Jonkel says that little actions can go a long way in preventing a neighborhood bear problem. He recommends keeping pet food inside except at feeding time, cleaning dirty barbeque grills, taking down bird feeders, making sure your compost pile is not laden with food scraps and keeping garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or in a secure building until the morning of trash collection.

Jonkel hopes that as time passes and more people learn the ways to keep their property bear resistant, less bears will become addicted to these backyard attractants.

“Overall we’ve seen conflicts decrease as more residents have learned what attracts bears and how to keep these things out of a bear’s reach,” said Jonkel. “Residences bordering bear habitat, as many of our western Montana neighborhoods are, should be thanked for their commitment to keeping their properties bear resistant. We want everyone to keep up the good work.”

Jonkel points to community bear aware groups that have formed around western Montana as a key way to increase local awareness about bear activity and to prevent conflict. He encourages more communities and watersheds to form such groups.

In Missoula, a Web site called missoulabears.org is an online example of a community effort to organize and prevent bear conflicts. Visit the website to see and make reports on recent bear activity and find bear aware tips.

Missoula also has garbage rules and companion “bear buffer zones” to address some of these bear temptations.  People who live in the Rattlesnake and other established buffer zones around Missoula need to keep their garbage in bear-resistant containers or enclosures or wait until at least 5 a.m. to put their regular trash cans out and pull them back inside by 9 p.m.  Find out more at: missoulabears.org.

Or, contact FWP at 406-542-5500 to learn more about how to minimize backyard bear attractants and what bear deterrent systems, such as bear-resistant garbage cans or electric fence kits, may be needed to keep attractants off-limits.

Image courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

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