Avoid Bear Conflicts: Store Food, Garbage Properly


As hunters venture into the woods this fall, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is asking them to be mindful of their food and garbage.

The same cautions apply to homeowners in bear country.

The past two weeks, local Fish and Game officials have relocated several young bears that have become accustomed to living off garbage and scraps left by campers and even homeowners.   Most bear complaints happen in later summer and early fall when bears are traveling in search of food.

“Anyone who leaves food out are actually baiting in hungry bears,” said Barry Cummings, Fish and Game conservation officer based in Deary. “Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and once they get used to finding an easy food source, they’ll keep coming back and problems will occur.”

Tips around camp:

  • Keep a clean camp. Pick up garbage and store it in a closed vehicle, bear- resistant container, or in a bag tied high between two trees. Store all food the same way. Coolers are not bear-resistant and never keep food in a tent.
  • Don’t cook near tents or sleeping areas, and never wear the clothes you cook in to bed.
  • Don’t bury food scraps, pour out cooking grease, or leave anything that might be tasty on the ground or in the fire pit. Also, store barbecue grills or other smelly cooking gear inside your vehicle or within a sealed bear resistant container.
  • Make game meat unavailable by hanging it at least 10 feet high and 4 feet from the nearest tree.
  • If you see a bear, watch it from a distance and leave it alone. Black bears are not usually aggressive, but the danger may increase if a bear loses its fear of humans.

Tips around home:

  • Keep garbage in bear-resistant containers or in a closed building.
  • Empty and remove bird feeders during the summer months when songbirds are able to forage on food provided by nature.
  • Clean up fruit that has fallen in your yard. Rotting fruit will attract bears as well as raccoons and skunks.
  • Feed pets inside or during daylight hours; don’t leave pet food or food scraps outside of your home or camp, as it can attract bears, raccoons and skunks.
  • Store horse and livestock grains inside closed barns.
  • Keep barbeque grills stored in closed buildings.

Feeding Wildlife Puts Animals and People at Risk

Many people enjoy seeing all the wildlife Montana has to offer. And some people think they are helping out by giving them something to eat. But the fact is feeding wildlife places the animals at risk and puts them on a collision course with humans. The problem of feeding wildlife has become such as issue across the state that the Montana Legislature recently passed a law with penalties for feeding wildlife. Feeding wildlife encourages them to move closer to residential areas where they can potentially cause costly damage to properties. Whilst this law has been passed, the damage has already been done in the sense that homeowners are seeing an increased number of wild animals on their property. To combat this issue, it is advisable to enquire about fences at Illinois Fence Company or a similar company to help keep wildlife off properties for their own welfare as well as the residents’.

Here are some facts about feeding wildlife:

  • Supplemental feeding encourages wildlife to become dependent on handouts that are not part of their natural diets.
    <,li>Hman foods are usually nutritionally inadequate for wildlife and may lead to subsequent health problems. It would be worth researching foods that are safe for wildlife like Deer for example, on sites similar to Feed That Game, so you can ensure you are not risking the health of any wildlife.
  • Young animals that are taught to depend on humans sometimes never develop normal foraging behavior, and could starve if the artificial food sources are removed or more likely become nuisances and come in conflict with humans.
  • Wildlife lose their fear of humans and learn that they can boldly forage for human food, consequently conflicts, nuisance behavior, and risks to human safety are sure to occur.
  • Wild animals being fed by humans may congregate in unnaturally high numbers, and this is the perfect opportunity for diseases to spread. Disease such as rabies, distemper and many others which are dependent on high animal populations.
  • Feeding wildlife, especially prey species such as deer, squirrels and rabbits, often causes a domino or food chain effect. Due to such feeding, the prey densities increase, which in turn attracts predators such as coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions. Example: Increase deer numbers in your yard and you may be inviting a mountain lion for a free meal.

If these facts are not enough, a revised state law passed during the 2009 Montana Legislature, adds ungulates like deer, elk, moose, and antelope, along with mountain lions to the list of animals that cannot be attracted to an area with any kind of food.

Once limited only to bears, the revised law is aimed primarily at feeding to purposely attract certain wildlife to a particular area with things like grain, seeds, and salt licks, but also includes negligently failing to properly store supplemental attractants, including garbage.

Offenders could be charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail. The penalty also could include the loss of hunting, fishing, and trapping privileges for a year or more.

The law does not apply to normal feeding of livestock, backyard gardens, most recreational bird feeding, or to commercial processing of garbage. It does, however, apply to those who continue to feed birds after receiving a warning by FWP that the feeding is unlawfully attracting big game and other wildlife.

Do your part to help keep wildlife healthy and prevent them from coming into conflict with people. For more information and tips about living with wildlife, visit the FWP Web site.

Recommendations For The Effective Use Of Bear Spray


Montana Fish Wildlife Parks - FWPThe Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends the use of bear spray and reminds hunters and others that despite its proven effectiveness, it is not a substitute for using proper bear safety techniques in the first place. The IGBC provides these guidelines:

When to use bear pepper spray:

Bear pepper spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear. [Read more…]

Firearms, Bears, And Bear Spray

Many die-hard hunters say they would never rely on bear spray to do the job of a gun.   Others counter that a gun can possibly maim a bear, causing it to ferociously settle the score.

What position do bear biologists take in this debate?   I can’t speak for others, but after studying more than 600 Alaska bear attacks, I’ve learned:

• In 72 incidents of people using bear spray to defend themselves against aggressive bears in Alaska, 98% were uninjured, and those that were suffered only minor injuries.
• In 300 incidents where people carried and used firearms for protection against aggressive bears in Alaska, 40% were injured or killed, including 23 fatalities and 16 severely injured persons. Another 48 people suffered lesser injuries.

In my research, hunters were generally unable to fire a shot before the bear slammed into them.   Some hunters couldn’t get the safety off, others short-stroked the bolt and jammed the cartridge, yet others, out of habit, tried to ‘scope’ the bear, losing critical seconds while failing to zero in.

With a can of bear spray on one’s hip or pack strap, it is simply a matter of pointing and shooting.   One thing bear spray and a rifle do have in common however is that success depends on practice. Learn how to use bear spray, including adjusting for weather and wind direction.

I tell my fellow hunters to pack bear spray when they hunt. Keep it ready when you are hiking, butchering the meat and packing it out—times when a gun simply isn’t convenient to have in your hands.   Your family will thank you!

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. [Read more…]


Name: Ken Knight
Height: 5’4″
Weight: 180-200 lb
Point Last Seen: Punchbowl Mountain on the Appalachian Trail in VA
Time Last Seen: Sunday, April 26, 9:00 – 10:00 a.m.
Unique Characteristics: wearing a dry-bag style backpack with a bright orange packbag, hiker is vision-impaired.

Knight is an editor at Backpacking Light.


Photo above taken Wednesday, April 22 on the Appalachian Trail.

If you have info, please contact us: publisher@backpackinglight.com.

Mtn. Lion Encounters…Run? Stand your gound?

Reno, Nev. (AP) — There has been a recent study on fatal encounters between humans and mountain lions, suggests one conventional wisdom – never to try to run from one of the big cats!

Staying put may make a person more desirable as potential prey and prompt an attack, said researchers at University of California, Davis.

This is some very useful information, especially as the Mountain Lion’s territory is spreading at a fairly rapid pace. There have been numerous sightings as far east as Michigan.

Read the full article here.

A Good Reason Not To Run – Pack Bear Spray

Counter Assault Bear Deterrent

Research in Alaska indicates that bear spray reduces the number of bears killed in self-defense and reduces human injuries caused by bears.

“Bear spray has been used successfully to prevent injury to humans and bears,” said Tom Smith, an Associate Professor at Brigham Young University in Utah who studied bear spray while he was a wildlife ecologist at the USGS Alaska Biological Science Center in Anchorage.

In addition, Smith believes, after analyzing thousands of bear attacks and people’s responses that bear spray also benefits people by giving them a reason not to run away.

Of 42 cases where people ran when confronted by a bear, only two bears left without further interaction. In the other cases, bears chased the fleeing people and in some instances attacked and mauled them. [Read more…]

Hunting in Bear Country

Here is another very useful from South Cox on “Hunting in Bear Country”.For me I think that we need to change our habits while in backcountry. While I do believe that there is an increase in bear populations, I also believe there is an indirect correlation to bear sightings or encounters.

This would have to do with the climate change, not necessarily “Global Warming.”The relation I believe, is that in the northwest (at least) where the cooler months are getting shorter, bears are are going into hibernation later. So, we as hunters, hikers and backpackers may encounter more bears during the early fall times with the bears eating on carcasses, last bit of bugs, berries, roots and the like. This is just a theory of course, as I am no way a biologist!

Following the bear mauling I experienced, you’d probably expect that I’d take every precaution available to avoid a repeat.  Because of the circumstances of the mauling: surprising the mother and cubs at close range, inside her comfort zone, I haven’t changed the way I spend my time in bear country much.  I recognize that it was really a freak accurance and that not every bear has intentions of making a snack out of me.  I don’t always hang my food, as recommended, but when I’m leaving my basecamp unoccupied I do.  I try not to stash food in my tent where I sleep, though I’m not as diligent about it as I should be.  I carry pepper spray, though I don’t have as much faith in the new stuff as the old.  I give sows with cubs a WIDE berth (which is probably the most significant habit I have changed).  I don’t carry a side arm, too much weight and not legal in many states during the archery season.  I think my encounter was one of those “struck by lightning” chance happenings.  I literally don’t loose any sleep over another encounter.

Read the full article here.

Medical conference to look at high-altitude effects

BOZEMAN (AP) — The 9th annual Medical History of the American West conference will be held Thursday, April 16, at Montana State University.


Titled “Summits and Sorrow,” the conference will run from 1:30 to approximately 8:30 p.m. in the Stadium Club in the Reno H. Sales Stadium.


Speakers will discuss high-altitude science in the Alps and Andes, breathing studies in Colorado’s high country, animals and humans exercising in high altitudes, bodily malfunctions while mountaineering in the Andes and travails in the Andean mines.


The conference is free and open to the public, but those planning to attend are asked to register by Thursday, April 9.


Anyone interested can register by writing the WWAMI Medical Education Program, 308 Leon Johnson Hall, P.O. Box 173080, Bozeman, MT 59717-3080, faxing 406-994-4398 or sending an e-mail to wwami@montana.edu.