Historically, Missoula city and county was full of wild, open spaces, excellent habitat and bountiful wildlife including black and grizzly bears, moose, elk, deer, lynx as well as many other species. Starting in the mid-late 1800’s European human development began fracturing portions of this habitat. Wildlife-human conflicts began as habitat was developed and wildlife had to increasingly navigate roads, homes, livestock and more.
Bears are opportunistic omnivores, which means they will eat most things that humans and our domestic animals eat as they come across these items. Bears must now navigate suburban environments and in the process are “lured” by people-related food resources such as chicken coops, garbage, birdseed and horse grain. Bears that are used to and tolerant of people but may not have received food rewards are considered “habituated.” For example, bears frequenting roadsides in Yellowstone National Park. Bears that repeatedly get into people-related food resources can become “food-conditioned.”
As bears become food conditioned and/or habituated to human activity their actions may be deemed a human safety risk. For example, bears that frequent porches for bird feeders or break into chicken coops near homes. As a result, these bears are often removed by management agencies because they pose a threat to people or, occasionally, they are killed by residents. The primary cause of death for bears in the Missoula area and surrounding valleys is human-related. These deaths are often preventable.
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear!
We can help reduce bear mortalities and improve human safety by minimizing the availability of people-related food attractants! Together with our partners we have chosen a proactive approach to this problem. Our goal is to increase local awareness by disseminating information and assisting neighbors. Our plan is intended to minimize conflicts with wildlife, particularly bears and mountain lions while also:
• Increasing human safety;
• Minimizing bear mortalities;
• Improving sanitation in our neighborhoods;
• Reducing the amount of time FWP spends addressing bear conflicts each year, allowing FWP to use their time more effectively in other areas of concern.
Photo credits: Image 1 by K.Quinn Ellis, image 2 by Dave Jarmon, image 3 by Bob Wiesner.