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Montanans Petition FWP To Require Hunters Carry Bear Spray

The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee says bear spray is one of the best ways to prevent or end a bear attack.
Courtesy Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee says bear spray is one of the best ways to prevent or end a bear attack.

Montana’s wildlife agency is being asked to consider requiring hunters to carry bear spray while hunting in Western Montana.

Missoula’s Mike Bader say too many Montana hunters don’t carry bear spray and he believes the time has come to make it mandatory.

“It could save your life or a serious injury and it could save the life of a bear.”

Bader is an environmentalist and longtime grizzly bear advocate. He’s is one of five Montanans who this month joined seven groups in asking Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to consider implementing a mandatory bear spray rule.

Bader says conflicts between hunters and grizzlies are increasing, leading to more hunters getting severely mauled and more bears dying from gunshot wounds.

The rule he wants the state to adopt would require hunters to carry spray in the western two-thirds of Montana, generally west of Billings and Fort Belknap.

“If something isn’t required, then people aren’t going to do it," Bader says. "With the bear spray thing, they’re not using it. We had the fellow that shot and killed a female and a cub on the Rocky Mountain Front about a month ago, bowhunting because he had a .44 but no bear spray. That only leaves one outcome.”

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks now has 60 days to respond to the groups’ petition.

Agency spokesman, Greg Lemon, says FWP officials had not yet reviewed the request as of Friday afternoon.

Lemon says he believes this is the first time anyone’s tried to require Montana hunters to carry bear spray.

Hunters currently are only required to have the “licenses and permits that they need and two, they have to be wearing hunter orange. Some requirements in the regulations on what caliber of guns are legal to hunt big game, but the big one that we point to from a hunter-safety standpoint is hunter orange.”

Without weighing in on the merits of the petition itself, Lemon describes bear spray as a proven, reliable bear deterrent.

“The more attention and public discourse there is about the importance of people recreating in the western half of Montana and being prepared to encounter grizzly bears is a positive thing,” Lemon says. 

Edward O’Brien first landed at Montana Public Radio three decades ago as a news intern while attending the UM School of Journalism. He covers a wide range of stories from around the state.  
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