Get out the bear spray, put away the bird feeders, bears are awake

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A grizzly bear pauses as it digs up a stump in a driving snow in Glacier National Park earier this month. Photo was taken with a 600 mm lens.

Grizzly and black bears are leaving their dens according to radio collar locations, track reports and observations from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. FWP asks residents to remove bear attractants by Saturday.

The warm weather and longer days will entice more bears to emerge from their dens in the coming weeks. They will be moving to lower elevations to take advantage of the green-up of vegetation. Bears will be attracted to anything that smells like food.

By April 1, residents should take down bird feeders, secure garbage inside a closed garage or secure shed, feed pets inside, clean up chicken and livestock feed, and in general remove all odorous substances that can draw bears. Instead of putting out hummingbird feeders FWP recommends putting up hanging baskets of flowers instead.

In Montana, it is illegal to intentionally feed ungulates, mountain lions and bears. This includes putting out grain, deer blocks, mineral blocks, sunflower seeds, garbage, meat scraps, bread, doughnuts, brownies and other food.

A properly installed and maintained electric fence is an excellent way to protect livestock, poultry, beehives, rabbits, fruit trees and gardens from bears. FWP has brochures and a webpage where you can get additional information on electric fencing at: http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/livingWithWildlife/beBearAware/bearAwareTools.html.

Biologists say that males tend to emerge earlier than females.

After a bear emerges, it takes a few weeks for its digestive system to get back to normal. The bear has been in the den for 4-5 months without eating, defecating, or urinating. The stomach and digestive system is empty so the bear starts out eating dry grass or roughage to activate the digestive system.

If bears come around your residence, bang pots and pans to scare off the bear and call FWP for assistance.

Hikers, mountain bikers, hunters, and other recreationalists should carry bear spray, keep it readily available for use, and know how to use it.

For more information contact the following Wildlife Management Specialists: Tim Manley, 250-1265; Erik Wenum, 250-0062; Kim Annis, 291-1320

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