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This Week in Fish and Wildlife: September is Bear Aware Month in Montana

If you are west of Billings, you're in bear country and awareness is key to safety. That's why Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is hosting several bear education events this month.
Posted at 12:20 PM, Sep 12, 2023

We've reported on it a lot this year: grizzly bears being seen in places that either haven't been seen in years or sometimes ever before. MTN’s Chet Layman takes a look at Montana's effort to help people and bears co-exist in the Treasure State.

BOZEMAN — Governor Greg Gianforte recently declared September as Bear Aware Month in Montana. The simple reason is if you are west of Billings, you are in bear country and awareness is key to safety.

“We have several very healthy grizzly bear populations in Montana. Their numbers are growing, the distribution is growing, and so what that means is people have a greater likelihood of encountering bears in more places every year,” said Morgan Jacobsen, information and education program manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Region 3).

Jacobsen notes that most bear encounters are preventable. Human safety is always key, but let’s face it: a negative grizzly encounter rarely ends well for the bear.

“It’s unfortunate that we have to euthanize bears in this part of the state because they become food conditioned or habituated to getting food rewards from things like garbage and dumpsters and bird feeders and things like that,” said Jacobsen.
“Those situations are preventable, and we can help foster healthy behavior in wildlife by securing those attractants and it ultimately means that we have to euthanize fewer animals,” he added.

FWP is holding various events throughout the month to help foster bear awareness. Jacobsen says these events are not to spark fear—instead, they are meant to instill knowledge.

“It means doing some simple things that really go a long way toward personal safety but also toward healthy wildlife behavior,” Jacobsen said. “We've talked about attractant management, carrying bear spray, and knowing how to use it. Traveling in groups, making noise—all these things add significant layers of safety for people such that they can go out, they can recreate in bear country and still enjoy it for what it is.”


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