BIG SANDY, Mont. (NMB) – More than 30 people gathered at the Big Sandy Senior Center on Wednesday evening for a Fish, Wildlife and Parks presentation on Grizzly Bear Awareness.
The meeting comes as grizzly bears continue to explore areas east of the rocky mountain front, according to Bear Management Specialist Wesley Sarmento.
“Two small grizzlies were observed near Lonesome Lake (two weeks ago), kind of walking around the lake, not causing any actual conflicts…My guess is they came from the Marias River. The main issues they could cause is coming near houses to get things like grain spills or animal carcasses.”
The grizzly bears have not been seen since.
Following the presentation, local residents spoke during the question and answer session expressing concerns about grizzly bears impacting their livelihoods. One property owner near Lonesome Lake said that he is afraid to let his children ride on horseback in the area or check on their calves after dark.
“There’s a lot of concern about people’s property and their safety,” Sarmento said. “But really, we’ve understood that concern before the (question and answer session). We just heard more about it.”
It’s not just the Big Sandy area that has seen grizzly bear sightings recently. The FWP has confirmed a grizzly bear was spotted last Friday in the Big Snowy Mountains.
As grizzlies begin to pop up throughout north-central Montana, Sarmento provides these tips to prevent grizzly bears from harming people or property.
“The biggest thing about human safety is trying to avoid surprising a grizzly bear, because grizzly bears can sometimes attack in self-defense of themselves. So avoiding surprising a grizzly bear by making noise is the best safety measure folks can take. Being careful in brushy areas, especially along rivers, because bears like to travel along rivers. And securing anything that a bear might want to eat near homes. Things like grain spills and bone piles. Trying to get those away from homes and securing them will prevent bears from coming near homes.”
If a bear is on your property, you can deter it away by hazing it with a hard-sided vehicle or by using scare devices such as airhorns or paintball guns. Putting an electric fence around livestock is also a useful deterrent.
Grizzly bears in the northern continental divide ecosystem continue to be listed as a ‘threatened species’ by the federal government, meaning that they cannot be hunted and FWP must get permission from U.S. Fish and Wildlife to relocate or euthanize problem bears.
FWP cannot take action on grizzly bears unless they are threatening people or property. And residents are not allowed to kill or injure grizzly bears unless they fear for their life.
If you do encounter a bear, Sarmento says bear spray has been proven to be significantly more effective than shooting one with a gun.
“You don’t have to be super accurate in a stressful situation. Bear spray comes out as a cloud. Also with bear spray, you don’t have to worry about shooting your friend, because it’s non-lethal.”
The proper way to use bear spray is to make sure it’s on your person. Point the can slightly down, start spraying when the bear is around 35 feet away, and spray in two-second bursts so you have more spray if needed.
Anyone that sees a grizzly bear in the area or sees identifiers that they were in the area are urged to contact Sarmento at 450-1097.
“We can come out, we help deter bears from homes. If bears are causing problems then we can trap them. We also provide bear spray and electric fencing and help clean up attractants around homes to help prevent bears from coming near people.”