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How to Bearproof The Backyard

A bear challenge (Photo courtesy Chrisjb/Flickr)

As spring turns to summer, bear activity is picking up in many western Montana neighborhoods, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is asking residents to continue to keep bear attractants contained.

Bears are often drawn to populated areas by unsecured garbage cans, the smell of pet food, bird feeders and dirty barbecue grills. “When bears find these easy neighborhood food sources, they can have a hard time returning to natural food,” says FWP Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel. “The best solution is to keep a bear from getting that first taste of backyard goodies. Garbage-conditioned bears will often travel miles to get back to a garbage can.”

In Missoula there’s  an online example of a community effort to organize and prevent bear conflicts. Visit the website to see and make reports on recent bear activity and find bear aware tips.

Missoula also has garbage rules and companion “bear buffer zones” to address some of these bear temptations.  People who live in the Rattlesnake and other established buffer zones around Missoula need to keep their garbage in bear-resistant containers or enclosures or wait until at least 5 a.m. to put their regular trash cans out and pull them back inside by 9 p.m.

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