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Montan FWP 

Be Bear Aware, Take Care! Food Storage Requirements in-place on National Forest


November 7, 2018

HELENA –As hunting season unfolds, forest and wildlife officials want to share some tips and rules with recreationalists to help minimize their chances of encountering bears this fall.

All who want to enjoy the outdoors need to be sure to learn and follow an area's food storage order requirements. Beginning in July 2018 the entire Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest has adopted food storage orders to help provide for public safety. Food storage orders decrease the potential for human-wildlife encounters and help keep our forests clean.

The HLC now has three food storage orders that cover its entire 2.8-million-acre landscape:

〈 Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) Food Storage Order*-Covers the Lincoln and Rocky Mountain Ranger Districts

o *No changes were made to this multi-forest NCDE order; this is not a new order, therefore enforcement will continue across these two Ranger Districts.

〈 Crazy Mountains' Food Storage Order-Covers ONLY the HLC-portion of the Crazy Mountains on the Belt Creek White Sulphur Springs Ranger District

o This order is specifically written to mirror the food storage order that is already in-place on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest's portion of the Crazy Mountains; therefore, the entire mountain range will have the same food storage order requirements, regardless of different forest boundaries.

〈 Remaining HLC Areas' Food Storage Order-Covers the Belt Creek-White Sulphur Springs (excluding the Crazy Mountains), Helena, Judith-Musselshell, and Townsend Ranger Districts

o This order will be adopted by Elkhorns-portion of the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (B-DNF) since the Elkhorns are managed cooperatively with the B-DNF.

Food storage orders are in place on all national forests in Montana, and on some state lands. Be sure to understand the requirements of the area where you plan to visit. For a list of all food storage orders in Montana, go to:

In the fall, when food sources become scarce and time for hibernation nears, bears become even more focused on finding and consuming food-they may feed for as much as 20 hours a day. This is called hyperphagia. During this time of year bears may be more aggressive in defending food sources and may pay less attention to their surroundings, including the presence of humans in the area. Once a bear associates a place or item with food, it is likely to return or to seek out similar situations in hopes of finding more food.

Bears are still actively searching for food, many bears will not enter hibernation until late November. Below are some tips for those who recreate in bear country (and all of Montana is bear country!):

〈 Carry bear spray (in an easily accessible spot), in addition to a firearm;

〈 Hunting alone, traveling at dawn and dusk, and handling game meat can all increase the risk of a potential bear encounter;

〈 Be extra vigilant in areas with water sources, thick vegetation, or reduced visibility;

〈 Remember that many things may act as an attractant to a bear. Bears may be attracted to anything that smells like potential food;

〈 If you need to leave wildlife carcass unattended, be sure to observe the area from a distance and make noise when returning to the area of the carcass. The longer a carcass is on the ground, the greater chance a predator may find it;

〈 Plan ahead, pack a tart to drag gut piles away from carcasses;

〈 Follow the food storage order requirements related to wildlife carcasses. At night, all wildlife carcasses within ½-mile of any sleeping area are required to be stored in a bear resistant manner; and

〈 Carcasses, parts, gut piles, or other remains are recommended to be kept at least 100 yards from a trail or day use area, at all times.

For more bear safety information, check out these resources:

〈 Bear Education Program: Sara Sylte, Bear Education Specialist, 406-495-3793 or [email protected]

〈 HLC website: Bear Aware webpage

〈 Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website: Bear Education webpage


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