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Officials Ask People To Be Bear Aware As Bruins Emerge From Hibernation

Public Domain / Jean Beaufort

As bears start leaving their winter dens, Montana wildlife officials are asking people to take extra precautions to stay safe and prevent conflicts.

Morgan Jacobsen, information and education program manager with Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 3, says rising temperatures and food availability drives bears to emerge from hibernation.

“As we head into March, it’s really important to keep that awareness that bears are going to start becoming more active on the landscape in the coming weeks and months,” Jacobson said.

Jacobsen says male bears emerge in early March, followed by females without newborn cubs between late March and early April. Females with newborn cubs will leave anytime from mid April and early May.

Jacobsen says people should take extra care to avoid carcasses since bears feed on them in the early spring.

People in bear country should also carry bear spray, make noise and hike in daylight, as well as remove or safeguard attractants, like trash, bird feeders and pet food, around homes.

“We also really encourage people to follow food storage orders that are established by the Forest Service,” Jacobson said.

Custer Gallatin National Forest’s annual food storage order for five of its seven ranger districts goes into effect starting Mar. 1 through Dec. 1. Keeping food, garbage and other attractants in hard sided vehicles, approved bear resistant containers or hung 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet away from trees or poles reduces human-bear conflicts.

Kootenai and Bitterroot National Forests also have an annual food storage order that goes into effect on March 1st. For Lolo and Flathead National Forests, the food order starts on April 1st.

A spokesperson for Beaverhead Deerlodge told YPR the National Forest has a year round food storage order in all districts, and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest’s food storage order starts on March 1st or April 1st, depending on the district.