Be bear aware as bears emerge from dens

Grizzly and black bears are emerging from dens, based on radio collar locations, track reports, and observations.

Males tend to emerge earlier than females; with the warming weather and increasing day length, more bears will be emerging in the coming weeks. As grizzly and black bears emerge, they will be moving to lower elevations to take advantage of the green-up of vegetation.

After a bear emerges, it takes a few weeks for its digestive system to get back to normal; the bear has been in the den for four to five months. The stomach and digestive system is empty so the bear starts out eating dry grass or roughage to activate the digestive system. Bears will be attracted to anything that smells like food.

By April 1, residents in bear country should take down bird feeders, secure garbage inside a closed garage or secure shed, feed pets inside, clean up chicken and livestock feed, and in general, remove all odorous substances that can draw bears. Instead of putting out hummingbird feeders we recommend putting up hanging baskets of flowers instead.

A properly installed and maintained electric fence is an excellent way to protect livestock, poultry, beehives, rabbits, fruit trees, and gardens from bears. FWP has brochures and a webpage where you can get additional information on electric fencing at: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/livingWithWildlife/beBearAware/bearAwa....

Hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, and other recreationalists should carry bear spray, keep it readily available for use, and know how to use it.

 

Reminders for shed hunters: WMAs are closed, be bear aware

With the arrival of spring and melting snow, shed hunters take to the hills in search of cherished shed elk and deer antlers.

It’s become an annual ritual for many. Some seek a fun way to get out in the field and others hope to turn found antlers into profit.

And that can turn a walk in the woods into a competitive enterprise where some are apt to break the rules, or overlook the impact on wildlife, or potential dangers to themselves.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reminds shed hunters that most Wildlife Management Areas that provide important winter range sanctuary for elk are closed until noon on May 15.

Each year, a number of people can’t seem to resist the urge to get a jump on the rest of the crowd and access WMAs early and unlawfully.

It’s important to remember that WMAs provide vital, protected winter range for deer and elk. And this is the time of year these animals are the most stressed.

Also, shed hunters should stay alert and remember that most of Montana is bear country. It’s easy to get so focused on searching for sheds that one can forget to remain ever mindful of bears.

Shed hunters should be especially cautious when approaching carcasses and carry bear spray in a holster on their hip or across their chest. Be aware that bears may be looking for winterkill in the same area one looks for sheds. Never try to haze a bear off a carcass.

More information about bear safety can be found on FWP’s Be Bear Aware website at fwp.mt.gov.

To find out when Montana’s 72 WMAs open, visit FWP’s website at fwp.mt.gov; then click WMA Open/Close Dates.

Recreationists seeking access to private land for any reason must ask first for permission.

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