Living in Bear Country

Welcome to bear country!
Now that your are here, it is extremely important you know how to coexist with bears.

Bears generally prefer to avoid humans, and many potential encounters go unnoticed by the person involved. Other times an encounter can be threatening to all involved, for example, when a female bear feels called on to protect a cub, or when food-conditioned bears grow bold.

To ensure an encounter with a bear is only an encounter — not a conflict — it helps to learn more about the behavior of these wild animals and to take steps to prepare yourself to see one. Bear behavior may seem unpredictable, but it is possible to get a sense of whether they are curious, threatened, or preparing to attack by observing the situation and taking the season, food sources and other factors into account.

Being able to recognize animal behavior helps too. For example, bears will eye a human intently and may demonstrate a natural curiosity until they identify what it is they are seeing. Once the bear realizes it is looking at a person, they most frequently will move off, unless the person's behavior is threatening to them or their young. However, bears have very unique behavioral characteristics, and it is useful to learn as much as possible about these commonly occurring creatures.

Encountering a Bear
With a little knowledge, you can keep a bear encounter from becoming a conflict. Take time to rehearse various scenarios in your mind in advance. Sports trainers say, "If the mind has never been there before, the body does not know how to respond."

The following is a list of recommended responses to minimize the likelihood of attack or chances of human injury:

Make certain you have bear pepper spray at the ready and know how to use it.

Always maintain a safe distance from bears.

Stay calm.

Immediately pick up small children and stay in a group.

Behave in a non-threatening manner.

Speak softly.

Do NOT make eye contact.

Throw a backpack or other object (like a hat or gloves) on the ground as you move away to distract the animal's attention.

Slowly back away, if possible. Keep a distance of at least 100 yards.

Do not run from a bear. Running may trigger a natural predator-prey attack response, and a grizzly can easily outrun the world's fastest human.

Don't climb a tree unless you are sure you can get at least 10 feet from the ground before the bear reaches you. Many experts recommend against climbing trees in most situations.

Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a grizzly bear that is near or feeding on a carcass.

If a grizzly bear charges, your first option is to remain standing and direct your pepper spray at the charging bear. The bear may "bluff charge" or run past you. As a last resort, either curl up in a ball or lie face down (flat). Leave your pack on to provide protection; cover your neck and head with your arms and hands. Do not attempt to look at the bear until you are sure it's gone.

If a black or grizzly bear attacks, and if you have a firearm and know how to use it safely and effectively, Montana law allows you to kill a bear to defend yourself, another person or a domestic dog. If you do kill a bear in self defense, you must report it to FWP within 72 hours.

If you are armed, using a weapon on a grizzly bear does not guarantee your safety. Wounding a grizzly bear will put you and others in danger.

If a grizzly bear attacks during the day, most experts recommend either curling up in a ball or laying face down (flat). Use your hands and arms to protect the back of your neck and face, and keep your backpack on for added protection. Do not move or make noise until you are sure the bear has left the area.

If a black or grizzly bear attacks at night while you're in a tent, fight back aggressively with whatever you have available to use as a defensive weapon or deterrent. The bear may be seeking food rather than trying to neutralize a threat, so fight back to show the bear you are dangerous.

Report all encounters to your local authorities. Your report can prevent someone else from being hurt.

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