Tips for Picking Berries in Bear Country

Huckleberries in MontanaThose who crave the huckleberry are already scouting their favorite berry patches.

In fact, some folks can smell huckleberries even before they spot them on the bushes. These experienced berry pickers know that they aren’t the only ones with their noses in the air. Montana’s black and grizzly bears savor the purple berries and will eat their way through a good patch of berries for days.

During late July and August, berries of various kinds make up to 80 percent of a grizzly bear’s diet in Cabinet Yaak ecosystem, said Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear manager Kim Annis.

When bears take a break they tend to remain in the area.

That means huckleberry pickers need to be on the look out for bears at all times, and be prepared to yield the berry patch to a bear.

Here are some tips on how to stay on the right side of the huckleberry bush:

Pack bear spray with you and know how to use it.
Avoid picking berries in the early mornings or late evenings when bears are likely to be more active.
When you find a patch of berries check the area for bear sign, including bear scat with berries in it and upturned rocks.
Make human noises, talk, sing, whistle or clap so you can be heard as you walk.
Avoid picking huckleberries alone if possible.
Keep a conversation going as you pick to stay in touch with your picking partners and so bears can hear you.
Talk to yourself aloud if you are picking berries alone.
Remain aware of your surroundings as time passes use your senses of sight, smell and sound.
If you see a bear in the distance, move quietly away.
Avoid getting between a bear and the berries.
Avoid getting between a female bear and her cubs.

Remember the bear was probably there first and there are many other berry patches.

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