Tips to be springtime bear aware

Photo of a black bear ready for spring courtesy of Anthony South.


By Ashley South


As the ground thaws and the forest starts to open up for outdoor activities, bears start emerging from their hibernation dens to feed on fresh starts and new greens.

Bears are mainly interested in wild vegetation, but if something smells good a bear can travel over twenty miles a day to find your chicken coop, garbage, compost, and anything with a little scent. By taking some simple precautions, you can avoid conflict with bears most of the time.

Bear spray is a great start, many local retailers around the Troy and Libby area sell bear spray. Fish Wildlife & Parks have bearproof garbage cans and electric fencing out for loan, and the Yaak Valley Forest Council loans  bearproof garbage cans to Yaak residents as well.

Something as small as bird feed can attract a hungry bear, so remember that you may need to  take down your bird feeders for the spring, summer, and fall months to avoid encounters and confrontations.

Bears have excellent memories and will return to places where they’ve found food, this includes your yard. Sometimes we forget to clean our barbeques or don’t pick all of the fruit from our trees. These simple mistakes can bring a hungry bear right onto your front porch.

To protect livestock, electric fences work well. For camping, maintaining a clean, well-kept site is important. Even if you are car camping, secure your food in a food storage container, wash your dishes, and keep stinky laundry away from your campsite and away from your tent so you don’t attract unwanted wild animals.

“Please remember when living in bear country to keep a clean yard, free from any odorous attractants (including food and nonfood items). If the bear is not rewarded with food, it will move on. If he finds food, he will return repeatedly until he is convinced there is no longer the possibility of more food. You may save yourself problems and save a bear’s life by following these simple guidelines,” said Anthony South of Yaak Valley Forest Council.

As we all know, we live in bear country so be bear aware this spring and coexist peacefully with our resident wildlife.