Bears Persist in Pursuit of Garbage in Rattlesnake Neighborhood Montana

Bears Persist in Pursuit of Garbage in Rattlesnake Neighborhood Montana

Bear Conflicts
Montana Bear Conflicts
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

MALTA, Mont. –-( Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) captured another garbage-conditioned black bear this week between Jackson and Van Buren Streets in Missoula’s Rattlesnake neighborhood.

This bear is one of an estimated five bears that FWP biologists say are being very persistent in their pursuit of garbage.

“There are a handful of bears right now that are attempting to enter garages and other buildings in their quest for food,” FWP Bear Management Specialist, James Jonkel, says. “These bears have tasted the garbage food reward enough that they are now going above and beyond to get more.”

Biologists captured the latest bear early Wednesday morning in a trap outside of a garage that the bear had broken into the night before. Because the bear had a prior history of problems with garbage and property damage and had already been relocated once, FWP euthanized the bear this week.

FWP first darted the bear in mid-September while it was feeding on a pile of garbage in Greenough Park. Biologists gave the bear an identifying ear tag and relocated it to a remote drainage in the upper Clark Fork east of Missoula, hoping it would stay focused on natural food sources and out of trouble. Instead, the bear was back to the Rattlesnake within the week and began getting into more trouble with neighborhood garbage.

Although relocation’s can work, Jonkel says, it is not unusual to see a bear return and continue getting into trouble. Bears that become conditioned to easy neighborhood food sources tend to become bolder and more aggressive towards humans, and often there is no alternative but to relocate or euthanize the offender.

“Once bears get that first taste of garbage they can be hooked on these tasty, easy treats,” Jonkel says. “Bears will often travel miles to get back to a garbage can, so the key is keeping a bear from getting that first taste; it can make all the difference in preventing bear problems and aggressive behavior.”

In recent weeks FWP has responded to numerous reports of bears in neighborhoods. Most bears are just feeding on fruit trees and moving on, but a group of bears have gotten a feel for the taste of garbage and are now exhibiting unacceptable behavior.

“Most residents have really been doing their part to keep garbage and other attractants put away,” Jonkel says. “We just have a few areas where garbage cans are staying out all week, and a few really persistent bears are getting bolder when presented with a temptation.”

The Missoula City Council adopted garbage rules and companion “bear buffer zones” to address some of these 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.

“Everyone should be diligent with keeping garbage and other attractants put away,” Jonkel says. “The best solution to bear problems is prevention.”

Fruit trees are also a major bear attractant right now, Jonkel says, and homeowners should harvest fruit as soon as it ripens.

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.