Most Grizzly Bears Still in Their Dens…But Not for Long


Grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front are still mostly snug in their dens, a state grizzly bear specialist says.

“We have six female grizzlies with radio collars and two male bears,” says Mike Madel, Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist, who flew the Front Tuesday looking for bear activity.

“We found four of the females still in their dens and two out but probably very nearby,” Madel says, adding there was also no evidence of the two males out on the prairie.

Madel flew the Front from the Sun River north to Glacier Park.

“There is still a lot of snow on the north and northeast facing slopes,” he says, “where most bears den.”

The recent warm weather, however, will probably lead some bears to emerge quickly. When bears do come out, adult males usually emerge first.

A Grizzly sow and her cub. Photo by Done Debold.

A Grizzly sow and her cub. Photo by Done Debold.

“After emergence,” Madel says, “the bears will hang around their dens for 5-7 days before they wander in search of food.”

Bear food this time year consists mostly of carrion, like winter-killed deer and elk, and livestock carcasses associated with calving activity at ranches along the Front.

As the weather warms and people start heading to the mountains to recreate, either to a summer cabin or camping, it’s wise to remember a few basic precautions when in bear country:

  • Take down winter bird feeders. Especially those close to the ground within easy reach of bears. Birdseed and suet can easily attract a hungry bear.
  • When camping, store food properly. Either hang it out of reach of bears or store it in a hard-sided vehicle, like a car, truck or camper.
  • Store garbage in out buildings, barbeques, too, when not in use. And don’t leave pet food out.
  • When hiking in bear country, especially in grizzly country, carry bear spray, know how to use it and keep it accessible. Bear spray buried in a backpack won’t do much good in chance encounter.

Bears are a part of Montana’s wildlife landscape, and it’s a treat to see one. Just don’t turn a good experience into a bad one.