Keep Backyards Bear Resistant

By BRUCE AUCHLY for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Bear activity is picking up in many Montana neighborhoods and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to keep bear attractants contained.

Grizzly bears have already been reported on the Teton River east of Interstate 15 in northcentral Montana and in past years have also traveled along the Marias and Sun rivers. When that happens, they can be drawn to unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders, spilled grain and dirty barbecue grills.

“When grizzlies show up on the prairie east of the Rocky Mountain Front in areas they have not visited in decades,” says Gary Bertellotti, FWP Region 4 supervisor in Great Falls, “they may seek out neighborhood food sources. The only solution is to keep bears from becoming interested in your backyard.”

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Grizzly Bear near Fort Shaw. Photo courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Bertellotti suggests that the following small precautions can go a surprisingly long way to deter bears from visiting one’s backyard:

  • keep pet food inside,
  • clean dirty barbeque grills,
  • take down bird feeders,
  • make sure the compost pile is not laden with food scraps,
  • keep garbage and livestock feed in bear-resistant containers or in a secure building.

Experience shows that bear conflicts decrease as more residents learn what attracts bears and how to keep these things out of a bear’s reach.

People who see a bear near their home are urged to contact their local sheriff’s department, local game warden or FWP in Great Falls, 454-5840, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

To learn more about bear proofing backyards and neighborhoods, and what systems, such as bear-resistant garbage cans or electric fence kits, may be needed to keep attractants off-limits, visit or call the nearest regional FWP office. Or, go to the FWP website’s Be Bear Aware page at