Hunters Need To Be Bear Aware

By BRUCE AUCHLY

Hunters along the Rocky Mountain Front, especially bird hunters in riparian areas, need to be aware they are in bear country.

In recent years, grizzlies have wandered out onto the prairie away from the Front, following streams and river bottoms. Several years ago, a grizzly was killed in October by a bird hunter, after the hunter surprised the bear in thick cover about 8 miles north of Choteau and east of U.S. Highway 89.

Bears rely on the dense cover of the riparian areas to find food. This year buffalo berries, a favorite food, are plentiful and bears are still several weeks away from seeking a winter den.

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

A Grizzly sow and her cub. Photo by DoneDebold.

That means hunters moving through thick brush along streams now and into November during the big game season could encounter a grizzly. Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommends hunters carry bear spray instead of a sidearm. Statistically carrying bear spray is better than carrying a pistol for personal protection in bear country.

In addition, FWP offers several tips for hunters in grizzly country:

  • Avoid hunting alone and avoid hunting in dense cover.
  • Learn to recognize signs of bear activity.
  • After killing a deer or elk, immediately separate the carcass from the gut pile.
  • If you have to leave the carcass hang it out of reach of a bear.
  • When returning to a carcass observe the area from a distance for bear activity. Signs of bear activity include a moved or partially buried carcass.
  • If a bear has claimed the carcass leave it alone and contact FWP immediately.

FWP has produced a brochure outlining some simple safety procedures for bird hunters in grizzly country. The brochures are available at FWP Region 4 in Great Falls and many license agents along the Front. For more information, call FWP in Great Falls at (406) 454-5840.

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