Char-Koosta News

The Official Publication of the Flathead Nation online

Watch out for spring bears

While it may still feel like winter, some bears have emerged from winter hibernation and very few natural bear foods are available.

Stacy Courville, Tribal Wildlife Program Bear Biologist, reminds the public that springtime on the Flathead Reservation, with its warmer temperatures and new vegetation is accompanied by an increase in bear activity. Soon after bears emerge from their dens they search for winter killed wildlife and succulent vegetation, the primary sources of much-needed food during spring months for bears.

Bears are readily drawn to items like garbage, pet foods, birdseed, and other attractants like chickens, often resulting in bear and human conflicts. Whenever someone makes food or attractants available to bears, they create situations that invite bears to become problem bears, which could ultimately endanger someone or cause the bear’s elimination.

Domestic chickens have been a particularly serious problem the past few years. An adult female grizzly bear and three young of the year cubs were captured and removed in 2013. The adult female and one of the yearlings were euthanized and the other two yearlings were removed to the Tulsa Zoo after becoming conditioned to chickens and chicken feed near Ronan. In all of the incidents that Courville and other Tribal Wildlife Biologists responded to it was determined that an effective electric fence would have prevented the bear conflict. Bear managers request that anyone with small livestock or chickens install an electric fence to protect and secure attractants.

In 2013, Tribal Wildlife Biologists and Tribal Game Wardens responded to an incident between bears and a human. Courville reported that in April of last year there was a surprise encounter between a Salish Kootenai College student and a female grizzly bear with three yearling cubs. The student was hiking alone in a brushy area along Mud Creek. The bear charged, attacked the student, and then left the area.

One of the best ways to ensure safety is to travel in a group of three or more people and make noise. Make loud noise especially when in dense brush or near running water where surprise encounters are likely to take place. Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best and most effective method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved. Anyone recreating in bear country is highly encouraged to carry bear spray. The bear spray should be readily accessible and the user should have knowledge on how to use it.

According to Courville, “one key aspect of the public education program is providing the public with information on ways to eliminate bear attractants”. To receive information on securing bear attractants and preventing conflicts, please call the Tribal Wildlife Management Program at (406) 883-2888.

If a grizzly bear is observed, please report it to the Wildlife Management Program at (406) 883-2888, report bear conflicts or problems to Tribal Law & Order Dispatch at (406) 675-4700. When calling regarding a bear, always tell Tribal Dispatch you are calling about a bear problem or conflict.

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