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Keeping bears at bay as seasons change

DRUMMOND - With bear sightings on the rise as summer turns to fall, it's time to revisit the strategies for keeping our furry friends in the wild and away from our homes.

Two bears were seen up Edward's Gulch in Drummond over the holiday weekend, giving concern to residents and those that use the gulch as an exercise route for their morning and afternoon walks. Combine those people with the livestock that resides there, and the possibility that these bears may find their way into town, and knowing how to keep them clear of your home become a priority.

In responding a call to one of the residents of Edward's Gulch, Game Warden Terry Althaus left a note with the following suggestions to help keep bears from being interested in your property.

"The choke cherries only last for a while and if there are no other attractants, the bears leave," wrote Althaus. "We are having the typical Fall rush of bears everywhere feeding up for the Winter. Any help we can get keeping them away from unnatural foods will be appreciated."

Althaus also left a brochure from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department outlining steps that residents can take to help deter bears form their property:

  • Garbage should be stored where bears can neither smell nor gain access to it, either in a bear-proof container or inside a building. Put out the garbage only Leaving smelly trash out overnight will give bears time to find it and get into it—this acts as a food reward to the bears and encourages them to continue to visit. Take precautions to reduce odors by using plastic bag liners. You can also spray your garbage cans with disinfectant after each use.

  • Food for pets and livestock should be stored in bear-proof containers, preferably inside a sturdy building that bears cannot enter. Reduce the spillage of oats and pellets by feeding from buckets or other containers, and do not leave leftover livestock food out overnight. Pens should be placed at least 50 yards from wooded areas or places that may provide cover for bears.

  • Fruit trees attract bears, especially when wild foods are scarce. Pick all ripe fruit from trees and the ground as soon as possible. Do not leave fruit on trees through the fall. Electric fencing is the most effective way to keep bears out of orchards. These fences need to yield at least 3,000 volts.

  • Vegetable gardens and compost piles also act as an attractant to bears. The smell from the compost pile and the food reward from both will keep bears coming back to visit. It is in your best interest not to have either, as they will encourage the bears to come down and investigate. However, a vegetable garden can be protected by an electric fence. This fence, again, needs to yield at least 3,000 volts to be effective.

  • Bears love honey and seek bee larvae in beehives. You can protect the hives with electric fencing or by elevating the hives on platforms 15-20 feet above the ground. These can be supported by metal poles that bears can’t climb. Beehives should be located 50 yards from forests or other sources of cover for bears.

  • Birdseed, suet, and sugar in hummingbird feeders attract bears. If bears are in the area PLEASE take down any birdfeeders immediately. If you want feeders, hang them as high as possible, but do keep in mind that bears are excellent climbers. Store any birdseed inside. It may also be a good idea to bring feeders inside at night. Use suet only during winter months.

  • It is very important that you share this information with your children. This will help them avoid dangerous situations when playing. Make sure they tell you if they ever see a bear in the area.

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