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Bear awareness meeting set in Big Sandy


Last updated 4/30/2021 at 12:07pm

Courtesy Fish, Wildlife and Parks/Copyright Tom Bowler

Grizzly bear move down a hillside. With sightings of grizzlies in the area, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a bear awareness meeting Wednesday in Big Sandy.

Staff and wire report

As grizzly bears move farther out onto the plains, including to this part of north-central Montana, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks is holding a bear awareness meeting next week in Big Sandy, near which sightings have been reported.

During the last several years, grizzly bears have been expanding out of their recovery zones including to the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front, FWP said in a release announcing the meeting.

"Just recently, a pair of grizzly bears were seen about 15 miles northwest of Big Sandy," FWP said in the release. Although it's not expected for these grizzlies or others to remain in the area, sightings may become more and more frequent as populations expand.

A bear also was seen in the area last year, first near Conrad - where it got into dog food - then outside of Brady. It got into garbage near the Chester-Fort Benton highway, Montana Secondary Highway 223, it killed two chickens on a ranch 20 miles west of Big Sandy, it moved to south of Rudyard and then back to five miles northwest of Big Sandy Sunday.

FWP reported last year that the bear moved more than 10 miles a day at times, which suggests a young, wandering male.

With grizzlies moving farther out into the plains - they mainly have recovered in the Rocky Mountains - FWP is hosting a public meeting Wednesday in Big Sandy on how to be bear aware including how to minimize conflict.

The meeting starts at 6 p.m. in Big Sandy Senior Center, and will follow Chouteau County and the center's COVID-19 recommendations. Seating may be limited, the FWP release said.

People who have any flu- or cold-like symptoms are asked not to attend the meeting.

FWP ensures that its meetings are fully accessible to persons with disabilities, the release said.  To request special accommodations for this meeting or for more information, people can call 406-228-3700.

Area FWP bear management specialist Wesley Sarmento will give at the meeting a presentation on the background of grizzly bears in Montana, how the department manages grizzly bear conflict, and the challenges of grizzly expansion on the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Sarmento also will explain what to do during a bear encounter, how to safely deter a bear using non-lethal tools and how to secure attractants and prevent a bear from being drawn into agricultural operations and residences.  He will also cover other tips to keep people safe around bears, including:

• Homeowners should remove or secure food attractants such as garbage, bird feeders and pet food.

• Homeowners should stay at least 100 yards away from wildlife and try to haze animals off their property with hard-sided vehicles and loud noises.

• Chickens and other small livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

• Domestic fruit should be picked up as soon as possible.

• Recreationists are urged to "Be Bear Aware" and follow precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it and traveling in groups while making noise.

People who see a bear near their residence in central or north-central Montana are asked to report the activity as soon as possible to Sarmento at 406-450-1097, Chad White at 406-788-4755, or to their local FWP office.

Grizzly bears are still a federally protected species under the Endangered Species Act, and final authority regarding management of this species falls under the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The state of Montana cannot establish hunting seasons or limit population numbers until grizzly bears are taken off the endangered species list.


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