Hunters, Be Prepared for Bears

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

MALTA, Mont. –-( With big game rifle season to open Saturday, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) reminds hunters that bears are still out and active throughout the fall.

Think ahead about what to do in an encounter and carry and know how to use bear spray.

FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel, says that being bear aware is particularly important for hunters because stalking and harvesting game increases a person’s chance of bumping into bears.

“When travelling through dense brush or field dressing an animal, be extra aware and do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence,” Jonkel says. “Always have bear spray close at hand.”

Jonkel says this has been an especially busy fall for grizzly bear activity in Region 2, measured in reports he has received from archery and bird hunters. Jonkel notes that he continues to get a number of reports of grizzlies in the Blackfoot and Clearwater drainages and a few from the Rattlesnake Wilderness, the Ninemile area northwest of Missoula and Garnet and Sapphire Mountain Ranges.

Grizzlies can be found throughout Western Montana, but bear distribution can vary from year to year, depending on the location of berry crops and other food sources. Jonkel says that this year’s weather conditions and natural foods have drawn bears close to trails and trailheads that hunters use.

FWP offers a few important safety tips for hunting in bear country:

  • · Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
  • · If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
  • · Watch for fresh bear sign.
  • · After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
  • · When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
  • · Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
  • · Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.

For details on how to hunt safely in bear country, check the Deer, Elk and Antelope Hunting regulations available online and at FWP offices, or go to FWP’s Living with Wildlife web page.