Many Montana national forests are home to the large and powerful grizzly bear. Where grizzly bears and humans occur together, conflicts may occasionally arise. The successful conservation and recovery of the grizzly bear involves habitat management and actions to minimize grizzly - human conflict potential.
Although aggression toward people and human injury is rare, incidents may occur during a surprise encounter, the protection of cubs, a defense of a food cache, or when bears have become accustomed to obtaining food associated with humans. When a bear becomes habituated to humans, displays aggression towards people or becomes conditioned to human food, the result is capture and relocation or removal from the population.
Remember, a fed bear is a dead bear! Two important bear habitat management actions involve proper storage of food, garbage and other attractants, and providing for secure habitat.
Food Storage Order for the Flathead National Forest Area:
Special Orders designed to minimize grizzly bear/human conflicts, have been issued by the Flathead, Helena, Lewis & Clark, Lolo and Kootenai National Forests. Storage of food, garbage and other attractants is restricted during occupancy and use on all national forests within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and all of Flathead, Kootenai and Lolo National Forests. These requirements are intended to help you avoid attracting grizzly bears into your camp or near to you while enjoying other non-camping forest activities. For your safety and for the recovery of the grizzly bear, your cooperation and compliance are needed.
For more details on requirements see NCDE Food Storage Special Order or the Tally Lake/Swan Lake Island Unit Food Storage Order. Food and other attractants are required to be stored in a bear resistant manner across the entire Flathead National Forest.
Storing Food in Grizzly Country:
Within the special order boundaries, as shown on the maps, you are required to store ALL food, including canned food and beverages, garbage, pet food and livestock feed, and any other attractants (such as food leftovers or bacon grease and toiletries such as soap and toothpaste) in a bear resistant manner. None of these materials shall be buried, discarded, or burned in an open campfire. Think of those who may use the site after you leave.
When you are not at your camp or picnic site, store all food products and attractants in the following bear resistant manner:
Road access provides for important forest management and recreation but must
be balanced with maintenance costs and environmental effects. Research has demonstrated that grizzly bear mortality is directly influenced by road access. Management of road access density involves using gates or berms to establish closures for motorized vehicles in order to create more secure habitat for grizzly bears and other wildlife.
For additional information view the Flathead National Forest brochure “Why are some roads closed? ". We appreciate your cooperation in observing these restrictions. Check with the Forest or Ranger District office for more specific travel information.
Safety Around Bears
Your Flathead National Forest is home to both black and grizzly bears. Following these rules on food, garbage and attractant storage will help to keep you and future visitors safe. Visit the following links to learn more about how to be safe in bear country. Help prevent a situation where a bear is killed because it has
become a nuisance or dangerous due to improper human actions.
Interagency Agency Grizzly Bear Committee – Bear Safety / Bear Pepper Spray
Interagency Agency Grizzly Bear Committee - Certified Bear-Resistant Containers
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -Tips for Living and Recreating in Grizzly Bear Country
National Park Service – Glacier National Park Bear Information
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks - Bear Awareness
There is a black bear hunting season in Montana. An identification program set up by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is intended to prevent mistaken identity killings of grizzly bears. Killing a grizzly bear in the lower 48 States is both a
federal and state offense that can bring criminal and civil penalties of up to $50,000 and a year in jail.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks – Bear Identification Program
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Tips for Hunters
Science and Management:
All Federal Agencies have responsibility and are directed by the Endangered Species Act to utilize their authorities, in cooperation with State and local agencies, to promote the conservation of endangered and threatened species including the grizzly bear. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee was established to help ensure recovery of viable grizzly bear populations and their habitats in the lower 48 states through interagency coordination of policy, planning, management, and research. Current studies on genetics, population numbers, and population trends are being conducted within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem by the United States Geologic Service and the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Grizzly Bear Recovery
Interagency Agency Grizzly Bear Committee – Grizzly Bear Science
United States Geologic Service – Monitoring Grizzly Bear Populations using DNA