Keeping Bears Wild: How to Manage Attractants
Bears that become used to being around people may be called “habituated”. Bears that receive “food rewards” like garbage or birdseed can become “food-conditioned” which may lead to their removal.
Types of Attractants and How to Manage Them
- Avoid feeding birds during bear active season (March to December 1st).
- Hang bird feeders at least 10 feet up and 10 feet out from anything bears can climb.
- Bird feeders may still attract bears and can lead to human-bear conflicts.
- Consider using birdhouses, birdbaths, and native vegetation as alternatives.
- Avoid planting edible landscaping and consider alternatives.
- Pick fruit as it becomes ripe and remove any fruit on the ground.
- Store all picked fruit inside a secure building, garage, or shed.
- Consider using properly constructed electric fencing around fruit trees to keep bears away.
- Alternatively, consider replacing fruit-bearing trees with options that do not attract bears.
- Contact the Great Bear Foundation Bears and Apples Program for assistance if needed.
Vegetable & Flower Gardens
- Do not use blood meal in your garden.
- Consider using properly constructed electric fencing to keep bears away from gardens.
- Avoid putting meat, fish, melon rinds, and other pungent scraps in the pile.
- Compost only leaves and grass, not kitchen scraps.
- Keep the pile aerated and properly turned, and add lime to promote decomposition and reduce odor.
- Do not use blood meal.
- If you have compost pick-up, do not place the container out until the morning of pick-up.
- Contact your local compost pick-up provider for bear-resistant container options.
BBQs & Grills
- Clean grills thoroughly after each use.
- Check the updated list of items that have been tested and approved as bear-resistant.
- Be aware of common bear attractants on your property and take necessary precautions.
- Secure coolers in a bear-resistant manner (e.g., in a car, home, shed, or camper) and avoid leaving them where bears can access them.
- Check food storage orders at campgrounds you visit to comply with regulations.
- Consider using bear-resistant coolers that may require locks for added security.
- Do not leave trash, groceries, or animal feed in your vehicle, as bears can pry open doors and break windows to access food and attractants.
- Major attractant for bears leading to conflicts and bear mortalities.
- The best option in bear country is to install bear-resistant electric fences for chickens.
Keep ‘Em Safe With Electric Fencing
- Ideally, feed pets inside.
- If pets are outside, feed only during the day and only the amount they eat in a single feeding.
- Bring in bowls at night and clean up spilled or uneaten food.
Livestock and Poultry Feed
All livestock and pet feed are attractants for bears.
- Store feed in a bear-resistant secure building, garage, or shed.
- Do not place feed out for other wildlife species as it is illegal to provide supplemental feed to game animals in Montana.
- Dispose of carcasses properly, electrify boneyards, or move carcasses away from people, buildings, and other livestock.
Minimizing Bear Conflicts
- Secure livestock, pet food, and livestock feed where bears cannot access them.
- Properly dispose of carcasses and secure boneyards.
- Follow guidelines and recommendations from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, and USFWS for managing bear conflicts in agricultural settings.
- Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Be Bear Aware Page – Agricultural Section: Provides more information on managing bears in agricultural settings
- Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee – Farmers and Ranchers: Offers resources and guidance for farmers and ranchers on coexisting with bears.
- USFWS Grizzly Bear Hazing Guidelines: Guidance for Livestock Owners, Homeowners, and General Public – Provides recommendations for hazing techniques to deter bears from livestock and property.
Importance of Securing Garbage
- Bears are attracted to garbage due to their strong sense of smell.
- Unsecured garbage can lead to human-bear conflicts in residential areas.
- Some cities, like Missoula, have laws against leaving garbage out to minimize such conflicts.
- Use bear-resistant garbage containers and store them in a secure location.
- Keep all garbage and recycling in a secure building or garage.
- Put garbage out only on the day of pick-up to minimize bear access.
Local Waste Haulers and Bear-Resistant Options
Your local waste hauler is a critical partner in reducing garbage as an attractant for bears.
Check with your hauler to ask about bear-resistant options before building or buying your own bear-resistant container or structure for garbage.
Grizzly Disposal and Recycling
- Phone: 406-541-7171
- Address: 14377 Pulp Mill Rd. Missoula, MT 59808
Bear-resistant garbage options may be available.
Republic Services in Missoula
- Phone: Call for more information. (406) 543-3157
- Address: 1501 Rodgers Street Missoula, MT 59802-1735
Bear-resistant options may be available.
Seeley Lake Refuse District
- Phone: 406-677-3809 for information.
- Address: 1708 Woodworth – Seeley Lake, MT
There may be a limited number of bear-resistant garbage containers available for seasonal check-out.
- Phone: 406-363-3630
- Address: 211 Humdinger Lane, Victor, MT 59875
Bear-resistant options may be available.
How To Video: Electric Fencing for Bears
Resources for Fencing Recommendations
- FWP Guide: Deterring Bears with Electrified Fencing: A Beginner’s Guide
- Defenders of Wildlife’s Electric Fencing Incentive Program (reimburses 50% of the cost of a bear-resistant electric fence, up to a maximum of $500)