HELENA- Hunting season is underway and with many people outside in the outdoors, the USDA is reminding people that bears are still out and looking for food before hibernation.
Wildlife and land management officials say that people recreating in bear country should familiarize themselves with the area’s Food Storage Orders and follow all requirements.
Bears are likely to rerun to an area or seek out similar situations after it associates an area or item with food, especially in the fall when food sources become scarce. Bears looking for food during the fall are more aggressive when defending food sources and may pay less attention to their surroundings according to the USDA.
The USDA provided some tips for anyone hunting or camping in bear country to reduce their chances of a bear encounter this fall:
Carry bear spray (in an easily accessible spot) in addition to a firearm.
Hunting alone, traveling at dawn and dusk, and handling game meat can all increase the risk of a potential bear encounter.
Be extra vigilant in areas with water sources, thick vegetation, or reduced visibility.
Remember that many things may act as an attractant to a bear. Bears may be attracted to anything that smells like potential food.
If you need to leave a wildlife carcass unattended, be sure to observe the area from a distance and make noise when returning to the area later. The longer a carcass is on the ground, the greater chance a predator may find it.
Plan ahead; pack a tarp to drag gut piles away from carcasses.
Follow the Food Storage Order requirements related to wildlife carcasses. At night, all wildlife carcasses within one–half–mile of any sleeping area are required to be stored in a bear–resistant manner.
Carcasses, animal parts, gut piles, or other remains are recommended to be kept at least 100 yards from a trail or day use area at all times.
For a complete list of all food storage orders in Montana, you can visit the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website here.