Time to remove food attractants as bears emerge from dens

Bears are emerging from dens across western Montana and residents are reminded to remove food attractants from their properties to avoid conflicts.

Montana is home to grizzly and black bears that roam the mountains and valley floors from spring through late fall before denning over winter. Starting in mid-March, those bears begin moving to lower-elevations in search for food after emerging from their dens.

As it does every spring, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to be “Bear Aware” and remove attractants by April 1.

“With this year’s above-average snowpack, bears are coming out of their dens and digging out from several feet of snow,” said Tim Manley, the Region 1 grizzly bear management specialist with FWP. “There’s no place for them to go but down toward the valley floor to feed,”

Residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage cans, bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

Manley said it’s illegal in Montana to intentionally feed deer and other ungulates, mountain lions and bears. That includes putting out grain, deer blocks, mineral blocks, sunflower seeds, meat scraps and other food.

Feeding animals leads to food conditioning, which increases the chances of a conflict and the removal and destruction of the animal.

Montana’s spring black bear hunting season also begins April 15, though hunters are required to pass a black bear identification test before purchasing a hunting license.