As fall approaches, tribal and state wildlife officials are reminding Montanans to be bear aware and secure any attractants that might lead to trouble between people and bears.
A meeting in Arlee Tuesday, co-sponsored by The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) and the conservation group People and Carnivores, focused on reducing conflicts between the growing population of grizzly bears — and people — in the Mission Valley.
Bryce Andrews from People and Carnivores stressed the importance of securing bear attractants and stopping those conflicts before they happen.
"Chicken, pigs, goats; all of those things are so easy for a grizzly bear to eat, and when they do it, it's basically a death warrant for the bear."
Andrews says unsecured livestock are one of the major challenges facing grizzlies in the Mission Valley.
Other bear attractants aren't so obvious, he says.
"Some of the things people need to know about are things like fruit trees, bird feeders, even spilled motor oil, or sweet feed or grain that they have for their livestock; all of those things can bring a bear in, and it's really hard to get people to remember all of those things."
Add corn on the cob to that list, too. Grizzlies are now feeding in corn fields in the Mission Valley and elsewhere in Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, says CSKT Wildlife Biologist Stacy Courville.
Tuesday's event covered a lot of ground. It included an update on grizzly activity in the Mission Valley, a history of the species, tips on securing attractants, and even a chance for the public to fire practice cans of bear spray. All of these things served to reinforce the meeting's main theme: that grizzlies can show up anywhere in the Mission Valley, and that a little bit of awareness and preparation can go a long way in preventing conflicts with the bears.