THIS MONTH'S ISSUE:
1998 has been a bad year for bears.
Several black bears (Ursus americanus) were killed in collisions with cars in Montana. Fourteen grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) were shot in the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem, including Glacier National Park and associated lands, and approximately 15 were relocated because of conflicts with people.
East of the Continental Divide, record numbers of bears of both kinds came out of the mountains onto agricultural flatlands in search of food to supplement this years scant berry crop. West of the divide, hunters had a banner black bear season with an estimated 200 killed in one area. State Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff received more than 160 calls in one month from residents in the Missoula, Blackfoot and Bitterroot valleys concerned about encroaching bears, most of which were attracted by fruit trees, pet food or garbage.
While a severe food shortage may be the immediate reason behind the unusually high number of human-bear confrontations in backyards and on farms, more bears and more people are taking up more space, squeezing bears and other large animals into smaller and smaller spaces, says UMs Chris Servheen.
FWP lists a number of common-sense steps people can take to minimize bear problems: Do not feed pets outside or leave their food dishes outside; keep garbage cans and barbecues in a garage or other secure place, or make sure they have bear-proof lids; and keep in mind that fruit trees and bird seed smell delicious to bears, especially when usual food sources are low.