As late summer transitions into fall in Montana, it's crucial to become bear-aware, especially since bears are actively foraging for food as they prepare for hibernation. Montana is home to both black bears, which can be found throughout the state, and grizzly bears, primarily here in the western regions, but increasingly expanding into areas they haven't occupied in decades.
To raise awareness about bear safety, September has been designated as Bear Aware Month, with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks organizing a series of educational events, including in-person and virtual sessions with engaging activities, valuable resources, and the chance to win prizes. Some confirmed event locations and dates include Missoula on Tuesday 9/19, and Florence on Wednesday 9/20, For a complete and up-to-date list of events and additional resources, you can visit fwp.mt.gov/bear-aware. If you can't attend these events or want to proactively prevent bear conflicts, here are some bear-aware tips to follow:
Securely store garbage, bird feeders, pet food, and other attractants in a designated building or a certified bear-resistant container. Wait to put out garbage until the day it's collected, and consider using bear-resistant containers where available.
Never feed wildlife, as bears that become accustomed to human food lose their natural foraging behaviors, posing risks to human safety. Feeding bears is illegal in Montana.
Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it promptly in case of an encounter.
When traveling, try to move in groups and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence and avoid surprises.
Steer clear of animal carcasses, which can often attract bears.
Adhere to food storage instructions provided by the relevant land management agency.
In the event of a bear encounter, avoid approaching the bear and leave the area when it's safe to do so.
Remember: Be Bear Aware!