HELENA — As we welcome meteorological spring this month and head out into the great outdoors, it’s vitally important to take precautions and remember that we are not the only ones back walking around the woods again.
Food storage orders throughout much of Montana take effect starting March 1st. These orders vary depending on location but generally pertain to most areas with grizzly or black bears such as the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. These orders ask folks to put their food and garbage into an approved bear-proof container and out of reach such as by putting it in a hard-sided enclosed car or by properly hanging it from a tree.
Common items that most people don’t think to include in your bear-proof container include things such as toothpaste, lotion, soap, petroleum products, cooking utensils, and pet food, or bird feed. All these items smell attractive enough for a bear to come snooping around.
Chiara Cipriano, spokesperson at Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, says that making your food more smell-proof, and out of reach not only protects us, but also protects the bear from consequences beyond human-directed relocation.
“But in general, I remember growing up with the expression, ‘a fed bear is a dead bear.’ You know, once they associate human with food rewards, you know, it's usually a death sentence for them in some way where they’ll get themselves into conflict. And so, the best thing we can do to protect the bears is to make sure we're, you know, keeping our camp sites clean, you know, making sure anything that has a smell is secured at night,” says Cipriano.
It’s important to stay aware and alert while out in the wilderness, says Cipriano, keeping an eye out for bear tracks, claw marks, or scat, In Montana, bears usually come out of hibernation the first or second week of March.
A few other tips for staying bear-aware during your next outdoor adventure include: making noise, having bear spray at the ready (not just in the bottom of your bag), and going with a group.
If you’d like more information on how to be bear aware you can follow this link: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/hlcnf/home/?cid=fseprd582844