Montana grizzly bear populations have expanded. Hunters are harvesting larger, more aggressive black bears.

If you enjoy Montana's great outdoors, you likely venture into or near bear country. And if you live in rural areas close to wilderness, you are probably aware that they may be neighbors living closer than you might have experienced in years past.

There are lots of good reasons to get 90 minutes of informative and practical bear safety training. That is what Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be offering this coming Monday evening, June 13, in Missoula.

Free bear safety training will be offered at the Missoula FWP office, 3201 Spurgin Road, from 6:00 - 7:30 p.m. The training will focus on bear awareness and precautionary measures that can be taken before you even encounter a bear. You'll also get advice on bear biology and typical behavior that might help you recognize just how close by bears might be in the wilderness area through which you are traversing.

One of the best parts of the safety training could very well be the hands-on bear spray lesson. Yes, you will get to use an inert spray, to better acquaint yourself with how to use the dispenser should you encounter the real thing.

We gathered more useful information from another local source, by visiting with Bill Caras, owner of Caras Nursery in Missoula. It's not uncommon for customers to ask about ways to make their homes more "bear-proof." Bill offered some interesting suggestions:

"A lot of customers in the Rattlesnake and Grant Creek areas have questions. Not so much in town, although we do get the occasional random bear, such as the university area.

"Fruit trees that have sizeable fruit on them, like an apple, is something they tell you do not plant. Bird, squirrel and hummingbird feeders are not good options, either, in bear-susceptible neighborhoods.

"A great example of an alternative for the hummingbirds. I don't use hummingbird feeders anymore. I plant a lot of salvia and other plants that attract the hummingbirds.That also lessens my management of hornets when we have a bad hornet year, and they want to get into those feeders.

"There's just a number of little things you can do to better coexist."

Montana FWP has lots of useful information on bear awareness here as well. But we encourage you to check out the training this Monday night. If you'd like more information, you can contact the Missoula FWP office at 406-542-5518.

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