Most residents and visitors welcome the chance to glimpse
a bear. Sometimes bears are attracted to areas used
by people, becoming unwelcome visitors.
Many people do not
realize that by simply altering their behavior they can minimize
the chance of unwanted property damage, close encounters with
bears, and the death of many bears.
Black and grizzly
bears are omnivorous, eating both plants and meat protein.
Bears primarily eat vegetation, supplementing their diet of
grass, berries, nuts and seeds with an occasional meal of
carrion (dead animals), insects, or any mammal they can catch,
or dig up. In the Yellowstone ecosystem, 90% of a bears diet
will consist of vegetation.
Around Your Home
If your home
is in a rural area that is near forested land, chances are
good that you have bears for neighbors. How well you get along
with these somewhat gluttonous neighbors depends on you. Although
bears are generally shy and usually avoid humans, they are
opportunistic and will search for human food supplies when
natural foods are not available, or when they are easy to
Is your residence
free of food odors that may attract a hungry bear's attention?
Garbage, bird food, pet food, fruit trees, and outdoor grills
are the most common bear invitations.
of conflicts can be avoided. Here are some tips on preventing
In northern states like Montana,
take down, clean and put away bird feeders by April 1. Store
the bird feeder until early winter. (Birds will do just
fine with the natural foods available.) Bear damage due
to bird feeders is a very common and growing complaint.
Do not begin feeding birds again, until mid-November when
most bears have gone into hibernation.
Clean up spilled seed below
Keep garbage in airtight containers
inside your garage or storage area until day of pickup.
Double bagging and the use of ammonia will reduce odors
that attract bears. Freeze
food scraps before discarding into the garbage can.
Garbage for pickup should
be put outside the morning of collection and not the night
A plastic garbage bag alone
does not provide enough security. Always place bagged garbage
in a secondary container.
Do not place meat or sweet
food scraps in your compost pile.
Do not leave pet food or dishes
outdoors at night.
Clean up and/or store outdoor
grills after use.
Use a bear-proof dumpster,
can, or store all garbage in a secure storage area without
windows until day of pickup.
Erect portable solar powered
electric fences around fruit trees and gardens. Do not allow
fruit or vegetables to rot on the ground.
Compost Piles, if
you must have a compost pile, enclose it with electric fencing.
Don’t put meat, fish,melon rinds and other pungent
scraps in the pile. Keep it aerated and properly turned.
Add lime to promote decomposition and reduce odor.
Never intentionally feed bears
to attract them to your yard for viewing.
FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR!
bears are fed, they quickly learn unbearlike behaviors. Sadly,
this often leads to the death of the bear. Once a bear comes
into contact with human foods or garbage, they return again
managers called in to deal with a "problem" bear will try
relocating it or discouraging it by using pepper spray, firing
rubber bullets and deploying specially trained bear dogs.
If these methods fail, killing the bear is usually the next
course of action. Black bears are given three chances when
they are relocated. Unfortunately, most relocated bears return
to the location they were first trapped within days and have
to be killed.
on breaking bears of the human-related food habit continues,
but at present wildlife experts agree: A fed bear, more often
than not, is a dead bear. In the Montana portion of the Yellowstone
ecosystem, feeding by humans contributes to more grizzly bear
deaths than any other factor, figuring in more than a third
of the grizzly mortalities reported annually.
can prevent a bears death by following a few simple guidelines
As snow disappears
in early spring hungry bears leave their winter dens. Early
spring offers the promise of abundant bear foods, but yields
no such benefit until grasses grow, bulbs sprout and flowers
Fall in Montana is
also another critical period for bears. If fall food sources
are limited, the bears are often drawn into residential areas.
Although bears are generally shy and usually avoid humans,
their need for food and their fondness for sunflower seeds,
and suet often draws them to residential areas and bird feeders.
Bird feeders are the number one
reason for human-bear conflict in Montana, and becoming the
number one reason in many other states.
its impossible. Various set ups and designs have been tried
over the years, but bears who have been attracted to a bird
feeder will always find a way to get to the feeder, or knock
it to the ground. Bears who have been attracted to a bird
feeder are also more likely to break into houses, which generally
results in the bears death.
Here are some suggestions
to prevent your bird feeder from becoming a bear feeder
Complete your bird feeding
activities by April 1st each year in Montana. In southern
climates you will probably need to adjust that time to
an earlier month. Do not resume bird feeding until early
winter after bears have gone into hibernation (the birds
will do just fine).
Bears are clever. This,
coupled with their strength and agility, make it very
difficult if not impossible to establish bear proof bird
Purposeful feeding can result
in the bears getting accustomed to humans. This "habituation"
of bears may cause a variety of conflicts with humans.
The end result will be the death of the offending bear.
Encourage your bird feeding
friends and neighbors to adhere to these guidelines.
Proper Care of Your Garbage!
Bears are one of America's most magnificent
large mammals. Although bears are shy and usually avoid humans,
they are also opportunistic and will search for human food supplies
when there are little natural foods available. Their keen sense
of smell can lead them to trouble - both for themselves and
humans. Take proper care of your garbage to help avoid these
of Garbage Properly
let garbage pile up or develop strong odors that can attract
bears. Minimize odors by keeping garbage in tightly closed
plastic trash bags. Freeze food scraps, especially meat,
fish and fruit by-products, in an airtight container until
trash collection day.
bear-proof trash and recycling containers. Plastic and
metal trash cans with fitted lids and dumpster's with
sliding doors or lift-up lids are not bear-proof.
Bear-proof trash and recycling containers feature sturdy
construction and self-closing mailbox-top-style lids and
are designed to be secured permanently to prevent toppling.
Your local garbage service may require you to use bear-proof
containers and may even provide them. If you don't have
a bear-proof container, keep garbage and recyclables in
the house or a secured area such as a roofed enclosure
made of bear-proof fencing until close to pick-up time
on trash day.
discard cooking grease in your yard. Collect it in a glass,
plastic or metal container with a lid and allow to cool.
When ready to dispose of it, transfer it to a plastic
bag, seal the bag tightly and place it in the trash.
and trash containers secured at night. Chain and lock
both tops and sliding side doors. If necessary store cans
indoors at night.
sized dumpster's Don't let dumpster garbage overflow.
Chain the lid down. Bears can easily open most dumpster's
dumpster's to prevent bears from tipping them over.
Rinse out dumpster's
and cans with a hose, and deodorize with ammonia often.
Pick up loose
or spilled garbage.
solar powered electric fences around dumpster's, and fruit
trees to reduce bear activity. Fruit trees are a common
problem during the fall in Montana.
garbage and place it in airtight containers to reduce
food odors that may attract bears.
If you keep
garbage in a shed, keep the doors closed tightly to prevent
bears from forcing them open. Bar the windows, and doors.
Bears can easily push through a glass window. Keep in
mind, bears can easily break into sheds, garages, or other
If bears do
break into your storage shed, move garbage to a more secure
location and deodorize with ammonia.
bears from approaching dumpster's or storage sheds by
using loud noise making devices.
intentionally feed bears to attract them to your yard
for viewing. This is becoming a very common problem with
folks moving into the areas surrounding Yellowstone Park.
If you do decide to feed bears in your yard, be forewarned,
it will not be tolerated and you can expect to be caught,
fined, and possibly arrested. Remember.... a fed bear
is a dead bear!
The ONLY bear proof trash can on the market to pass all tests.
Testing was conducted by "The
Bearman" Kevin Sanders in May 2002 at the Grizzly Bear
Discovery Center with large Alaskan Kodiak grizzly bears. Testing
monitored by ; Montana Dept. of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and BFI waste services. (Sanders;
Gallatin Canyon Bear Proof Research Project, 2001)
Trees and Gardens
Fruits and vegetables are not only tasty for humans but among
the many natural foods that bears search out in the wild. Even
though fruits and vegetables are better for a bear than garbage,
these areas are usually close to homes and will quickly habituate
a bear to humans.
Never allow fruits or vegetables
to rot on the ground.
Erect portable solar powered
electric fences around fruit trees and gardens.
Compost Piles: if
you must have a compost pile, enclose it with electric fencing.
Never put meat, fish, melon rinds and other pungent scraps
in the pile. Keep it aerated and properly turned. Add lime
to promote decomposition and reduce odor.
Clean grills regularly
Store grills in the basement
or other secure location when not in use.
Clean spilled or dripped grease
from deck area.
Do not leave food
cooking outside unattended. Bears have been known to snatch
sizzling steaks right off the grill !
Do not leave scented
products outside. Bears will sample anything that smells
good, even nonfood items such as suntan lotion, insect repellent,
soap and candles.
Feed pets indoors or feed
only enough so that no food remains during the night.
Clean bowls regularly.
Do You Do if There is a Bear in Your Yard?
If you do find a bear using your home as a grocery store,
contact your local Fish and Game Dept. as soon as possible.
The more a particular bear visits your home, the more conditioned
they become, and the greater the chance that the bear will have
to be killed.
In Montana, report
all bear sightings and incidents on your property to: Montana
Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department, 406-994-4042.
If it's a grizzly bear, call immediately.
If you are certain
the bear is a black bear, encourage it to leave. Bang on
pots and pans or make other loud noises. (Boat air horns
work well.) As a last resort (and only if you’re in
a protected position) throw stones or other small objects
in the direction of the bear with the intent of driving
it away, not hurting it. The more stressful a bear's encounter
with you is, the less likely it is to come back.
If you unexpectedly
encounter a bear in your yard, walk, don’t run away.
Move slowly and don’t make eye contact. If the bear
is a grizzly with cubs, don’t get between her and
her cubs or threaten the cubs in any way. If the bear charges,
stand your ground. Bears commonly "bluff charge," stopping
within a few feet. If the bear continues to come at you,
drop to the ground, curl up in "cannonball" position, head
between knees and hands clasped around the back of your
neck, and play dead. Playing dead shows the animal you’re
not a threat. It may leave you alone or paw you and inflict
mild injuries. Learn more about what to do if you are attacked
by a bear ---bear spray, bear attacks......what to do.
Be prepared for
close encounters with bears by carrying pepper spray. Keep
a canister on your belt. Sprayed in the face of a
charging bear at close range, oil-based pepper sprays containing
at least ten percent oleoresin capsicum have been proven
to halt attacks. Read the directions and practice firing
the canister before you start carrying it. Use the spray
only in the event of an attack. More on bear spray, bear
attacks and my recommendations on the best brand of bear
Remember-------to change the behavior of bears, we must
first change our own. Don't wait until you have a problem to
do something about it. It is our responsibility if we choose
to live in bear country to learn how to live with bears.