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 obtain.
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.
The majority of
conflicts can be avoided. Here are some tips on preventing bear
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
Clean up spilled seed below feeder
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 before.
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.
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 and again.
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.
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 bloom.
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.
Simply put, 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 feeders.
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!
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 conflicts.
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
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
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
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
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.
Double bag 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 out-buildings.
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.
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
Trees and Gardens
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
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 spray----click here.
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. -----Kevin Sanders