The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks wants residents in western Montana to begin thinking about becoming more ‘bear aware’ now the month of May has arrived.

KGVO News spoke to Education and Program Manager for FWP District Two Vivaca Crowser about the fact that bears have emerged from their dens after their long hibernation.

“As each week goes by we get more and more reports of bears out and about,” said Crowser. “It's definitely the time of year where they're out I and active. The late spring that we've had makes that kind of hard to remember but it's the time of year to get everything picked up around your house that might attract a bear, and then also to start being really aware again when you're out on the trails.”

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Crowser said Missoula and western Montana residents need to understand how easy it can be to attract a bear to their property or where they are recreating.

“It doesn't take much to lure a bear in this time of year really anytime, but especially now as they're getting out and looking for food right away,” she said. “So around your house watch for things that might attract a bear. Some things are more obvious than others. Keeping your trash inside until as close to garbage pickup as possible or in a ‘bear-resistant’ garbage container is probably the best thing that we can all do to prevent attracting bears.”

Now that hiking season is underway, Crowser said becoming ‘bear aware’ could help save a life.

“Things to keep in mind?” she asked. “Travel with someone else on a trail if you can, or just make a little noise from time to time; look for any sort of bear sign, and if you're in areas where it's dense and maybe you just don't have good visibility, be particularly cautious in those areas. Around Missoula, there are so many good places to bike that I think that's kind of a tricky one because you can come up upon a bear pretty quickly and surprise each other, and so, again, in the spots where there’s tighter cover, just be extra aware, do your best to make some noise, and of course, carrying bear spray and having it handy is really important.”

Crowser also addressed the fact that grizzly bears are coming closer to the Missoula area and are a growing concern.

“We certainly are right on the edge of grizzly bear habitat,” she said. “A lot of folks are aware of a grizzly bear in the North Hills last year, and it's likely that we're going to see that bear or other bears back in and around town. As there are more grizzly bears and they're in more places around the state you don't have to venture far to be really in prime grizzly bear habitat either, so it's really important to keep that in mind, and remember all those safety precautions as well.”

Click this link for current bear sightings around Missoula.

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