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While living or vacationing in bear country, there is a large responsibility when it comes to trash management and safety. Bears are very smart and strong creatures; they can get into anything, but by understanding the trash requirements with a bear resistant trash can give you and the bear more time to get them out of the area. Once bears have access to human trash, they become very aggressive and territorial, making it dangerous for you and your community. Know the proper ways to dispose of your trash and learn more helpful tips on living in bear country.
With the influx of people moving to the Rocky Mountains, more and more people are living in bear habitat. When there are more people, whether that be locals or visitors, there is an increase in trash.
The best way to keep the wildlife and yourself safe is by understanding your responsibility for the trash that is produced.
Below is a map of the state of Montana showing where black bears and grizzly bears are located.
This map is a helpful resource that explains where bears roam. If you live in any part of Montana, trash management is a large issue.
Bears are both very smart and very lazy creatures. Their nose can smell attractants from 20 miles away. If bears are close to your area shown above in the map, you should take extra precautions when it comes to trash.
The first thing to do is get a bear resistant trash can. Call your trash provider to upgrade your trash can to be bear resistant. Think of this as an investment in both your safety and the wildlife surrounding you.
Local Trash Provider Contacts in Bozeman and Big Sky:
L&L Site Services (406) 388-7171 | Republic Services (406) 586-0606
Bears can easily get into and rip open regular trash cans, enjoying all your leftover food and trash. Once bears become conditioned to this easy access to high-calorie human food, they will continue to seek out additional opportunities to return, start preferring human food over natural resources and become less afraid of humans.
Bear resistant trash cans provide homeowners more time to react, scaring off the bear when near your home with loud noises or even bear spray, or hopefully the bear will give up because the container will not open.
Once bears are conditioned to seek out trash from homes and businesses in town, they can become very aggressive and territorial towards this area. This is very dangerous to the people that live there and usually ends with the problem bear being euthanized. We need to refocus the problem on the people who are not properly securing their trash.
It has taken years for grizzly bears to recover to a safer population number (about 1,800.) They have made a remarkable recovery, but there is still a lot of work to be done. We need to do our part and make sure we keep grizzly bears out of our towns and keep them in the wild.
On trash pick up days, the best tactic is to keep the trash in your garage or in your home for as long as you can. Taking trash out the morning of pick up will eliminate the time odors escape from the trash and give bears less of an opportunity to access your trash.
OTHER HELPFUL TIPS FOR LIVING IN BEAR COUNTRY
1) Clean your grill after every use. Burn off any remaining food particles and scrub the grease from grills, smokers and other outdoor cookers. If cooking over an open fire, remove any unburned food or scraps from the fire pit. After using the grill, put it in your garage or a place that a bear can not get to it.
2) Remove your bird feeders. Remove bird feeders during the period when bears are most active, mid- March to mid-November. (Birds don’t tend to need supplemental feeding at this time anyway). At a minimum, make feeders unavailable by hanging them at least 10 feet from the ground and four feet from any supporting post or tree trunk. Better yet, take bird feeders down and bring them in at night. Regularly pick up all waste seed, hulls and shells, or use only shelled seeds and nuts. Store all bird seed indoors.
3) Keep your lawn mowed and weeded. Grasses, dandelions and clover are natural bear foods. Keep the landscape open in the area surrounding your house.
4) Gardens: Consider electric fencing if you have a garden. Vegetable gardens, especially those containing potatoes and root vegetables such as carrots and beets, attract bears. Flower gardens are not as attractive to bears as long as they don’t contain sweet vetch, dandelions or clover. Never use blood meal as a fertilizer or deer repellent in any type of garden.
5) Don’t leave pets unattended outside, especially at night or when a bear is known to be in the area. Store pet food inside. Consider feeding pets (and livestock) at midday so they are finished eating before dusk. Bring pet food bowls inside as soon as pets are finished eating. Don’t leave bones and scented chew toys laying around your yard.
What to do if there’s a bear in your yard
Report all bear sightings and incidents on your property to your local wildlife agency. If it’s a grizzly bear, call immediately.
If you are certain the bear is a black bear, encourage it to leave. Bang on pots and pans or make other loud noises. (Boat air horns work well.) The more stressful a bear’s encounter with you is, the less likely it is to come back.
If you unexpectedly encounter a bear in your yard, walk, don’t run away. Move slowly. If the bear is a grizzly with cubs, don’t make eye contact, and don’t get between her and her cubs or threaten the cubs in any way. If the bear charges, stand your ground. Bears commonly “bluff charge,” stopping within a few feet.
If a grizzly continues to come at you, lie face flat on the ground, hands clasped around the back of your neck, and play dead. In this non threatening position, a bear will likely leave you alone or, at worst, paw you and inflict only minor, superficial injuries.
Keep bear spray handy. Always have a canister of bear spray (at least eight ounces) on your belt and near the front and back doors of your house. Make sure it is an EPA-registered bear spray with 1-2% capsaicin and related capsaicinoids, a spray duration of at least six seconds and a range of 25 feet. Familiarize yourself with the directions for using the spray, but use it only if confronted with a charging bear. Spray toward the bear, aiming slightly downward.
- SOURCE: Defenders of the Wild
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