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Berry crops starting to attract bears in Missoula area

By Kevin Maki, KECI Reporter, kmaki@keci.com
Published On: Jul 12 2013 07:27:18 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 12 2013 08:46:07 PM MDT

It's that time of year when conflicts between humans and bears often escalate.

MISSOULA, Mont. -

Wild berry crops are bringing bears down from the hills to feed. It's that time of year when conflicts between humans and bears often escalate.

Ongoing education efforts to reduce problems appear to be gaining traction. But Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear managers are keeping busy.

Garbage just sitting around is attractive to bears. But the less contact bears have with humans and their world the better off they are. It's expected our worlds will meet.

Serviceberries are part of the bear's natural diet. They're getting ripe.

"Right in people's backyards," said bear management specialist Jamie Jonkel, "so it's just starting. Be aware that you're going to see bears the next couple weeks."

Jonkel has been getting a number of calls about bear conflicts in the Lower Fork area west of Missoula.

The well known bear scientist said bird feeders in bear country aren't a good idea.

"Bird feeders are very addictive to bears," said Jonkel. "Once they discover what bird seed is, that behavior is almost impossible to stop."

Jonkel said bear education efforts in the Missoula area may be paying off.

It's unlawful to feed wildlife in Missoula city limits.

There are garbage ordinances that carry fines in the bear buffer zone. That's a zone around the edge of the city including the Rattlesnake and Grant Creek.

Erik Nugent lives in and takes precautions in bear country.

"Try to wait to take my trash out until the day that the garbage man actually shows on Tuesday," said the West Riverside resident .

Nugent is bear aware. He has his own noisemaker when he walks in the woods. It tells bears he's coming up the trail.

For more information on being bear aware, check out this site.