Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Mar. 11 that encounters between people and grizzly bears in the southern part of the state were higher in 2019 than in recent years. The number of injuries has stayed about the same.
Recreationists reported 18 potentially dangerous encounters with grizzly bears last year in the Madison, Gravelly, Absaroka and Beartooth mountain ranges.
Five people were injured. Two adult bears were killed.
Morgan Jacobsen with FWP says four of the five injuries happened in three separate incidents in September while people were hunting in the Gravelly Mountains.
“If there’s a lesson to be learned from how things played out in 2019, it’s that being with someone while you’re out in grizzly or bear habitat is really important in being able to end the attack and getting both of you out to get medical help. Those were key factors for some of those folks who were injured in 2019," Jacobson said.
Jacobsen says it’s hard to know exactly why potentially dangerous grizzly encounters are higher some years.
The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem’s grizzly bear population, which includes portions of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho, is estimated conservatively at about 750 bears. Over the decade, the average has been 12 potentially dangerous encounters in Montana’s portion of the GYE.
“Pretty much from March until the end of December, bears can be active on the landscape and even sometimes during hibernation, as well," Jacobson said.
Jacobsen says residents can help minimize bear encounters by securely storing bird feeders, pet food, garbage and other attractants. Recreationists should carry bear spray, travel in groups and follow food storage regulations.