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  • Writer's pictureCarmen Hobson

Bears, Bears, and More Bears!

It’s Fat Bear Week in Katmai National Park, and the winning bears have been bracketed down to the semi-finals, and what a semi-final it will be. If you want to check out the Katmai Bears, or vote, click here for some great fun:

We don’t have a Fat Bear Week here in Montana, but there have been some doozies show up here in the past few weeks. My neighbor’s game cam has been going off every night, and to date he's identified 5 separate bears inhabiting our woods, which lie on an old game trail. One little black bear has even figured out how to circumvent the hot-wired apple trees enough to grab a snack every now and then. Knowing we live with these beautiful creatures in peace most of the time, yet well-aware of their power and potentially fearsome ferocity, I thought I’d offer some sound advice on living with them for the newcomers to our area.

First, please keep all your garbage inside. Period! If you must keep a can outside, contact Republic Services for a bear resistant garbage can. Bears become habituated to humans through reward, and any garbage is big reward for bears. Columbia Falls is currently under emergency orders to force people to keep their garbage locked up, due to the increase in bear/human conflicts caused by bears who have learned bad behavior due to humans bad behavior of leaving trash outside and readily available. Let’s try to make certain other communities don’t end up with the same orders. The local rangers have stated that between black bear and grizzlies, they’ve had to euthanize over 200 bears just this year. That’s a sad state of affairs, and almost all could have been prevented with human responsibility with regards to trash removal and storage.

Pictures and video from a recent bear with her cubs in Marion, MT

Second, keep your coolers and BBQ’s locked up also, as they just appear to be a great picnic basket to hungry bruins in hyperphagia. If you’re traveling, or camping, use certified bear proof coolers if they must be left outside, and make sure you install the locks on them otherwise, they are not considered bear proof. Also, keep all bird feeders higher than 10’ in height, and if on a mount, make sure it’s steel, not a wood post, so a bear can’t climb up it.

Third, respect these creatures for what they are…the apex predators who don’t want conflict with humans, but will defend themselves if pressured. This means staying away from sows with cubs, young bears who may still be with their mothers, any bear exhibiting stressed behavior (swinging head, ears pinned back, pawing the ground, grunting, licking their lips, clacking their teeth). Ignorant folks have been walking up to bears who are obviously stressed, and they are surprised when they get charged. They are just lucky they didn’t get the full force of that bear’s defenses. Montana is not a petting zoo, and those who think it’s fun to get up close and personal with any of our wildlife are going to the the “bull with the horns” so to speak. Observe wildlife from a safe distance, giving them a wide berth when possible. Carry bear spray, and don’t hike alone. Speak softly if you surprise a bear, and back up slowly. Do not run, as this will spark their prey drive and you won’t be outrunning an angry bear! Stay clear of any carcasses you find on the trail, and turn around if there are any signs of bear or other predators actively feeding.

Just a few simple practices will keep you safe, and keep our bears out of trouble, so use your common sense, and they’ll be around for a long time to come.

Now get out and enjoy this glorious fall!

Carmen Hobson

Owner/Broker of Touchstone Real Estate

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