Posted: Apr 26, 2013 9:50 PM by Claire Anderson - MTN News
Updated: Apr 26, 2013 9:51 PM
Spring in Montana means warmer weather, new vegetation - and bears emerging from their dens.
Mike Madel, a bear management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, says the Rocky Mountain Front is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears, and an estimated 300 grizzlies roam the north-central mountain region, and now is the season when they start to make their way out into the open.
Madel said, "They spend a week or two around their den sites and then drop down to the lower elevation areas, and most of that are river bottoms and creek bottoms along the Rocky Mountain Front."
Madel has been working in the region for almost 30 years and has witnessed the changing habits of Montana's grizzlies; he said, "The population has just simply increased, it's just a matter of bears learning to use their old historical habitats."
With the bear population increasing by about 3% every year, more bears making their way out into the plains.
Madel said, "Bears travel out further and further looking for other foods, and when they do that they learn about new habitat and they're teaching their cubs to do that same thing."
With those changes, people living within the "new" bear territory have had to find ways to keep animals at bay; Madel said, "We've learned a lot about electricity and bears, electricity and fences, you can use it in a number of different ways."
FWP has found that the fences are beneficial in protecting everything from livestock to bee hives and property.
Radio collars are also a useful tool, Madel said: "It's giving us really important information and useful information on how bears are using habitat out on the open plains and further out on the river bottoms."
Madel says people should be prepared for the possibility of bear encounters all the way from the Canadian border to Helena and even out to Fort Benton and beyond.
He added, "I think the best attitude is just to realize is that grizzly bears are occupying both the national forest lands, state lands, and private lands up along the Rocky Mountain Front.