My Fruit Tree Brings the Bears to the Yard
As you’ve probably heard or even seen, there are a lot of black bears in the Rattlesnake Valley right now. The Lolo National Forest just closed several of the more popular trails in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, including Spring Creek and the trails between the main road and the creek (map and announcement) where there have been a higher-than-usual number of bear sightings.
However… you don’t have to go to the wilderness to find bears in the Rattlesnake! If you live in the valley there are probably several bears within a mile of you right now, and it’s better for everyone if those bears stay in the open space corridors instead of in our yards.
This time of year there are two big things drawing black bears into the residential neighborhoods of our valley: fruit and garbage.
You can help protect your neighbors and the bears.
Don’t put your garbage out till the morning of your pickup! (If you live in an area with a very early pickup, such as the Lower Rattlesnake, talk to your neighbors who might need help getting their trash out early).
Harvest your apple, pear and plum trees! If you’re too busy or you have too much fruit to handle yourself, there’s good help available from the Great Bear Foundation or from Garden City Harvest. RCWG can mobilize volunteers to help you out too, and we’ll use the apples to make cider at our annual Fall Festival (details soon!).
If you’ve seen bear scat in the past few weeks, you know the bears are eating apples! (Until late August they were eating more cherries and hawthorn berries in my Lincoln Hills neighborhood). Apples themselves won’t hurt bears, but as bears go into yards and spend time near houses and other nearby food sources, they become habituated and potentially dangerous. These bears may need to be removed and in some cases killed. That typically happens to up to a dozen or so bears in the Rattlesnake each year, but in recent years we’ve had better statistics as people have done better at managing attractants like garbage and apples. It’s better for the bears if we harvest the apples for ourselves.
Missoula Bears has a good overview of bear attractants and what you can do about them. (Fruit and garbage aren’t the only attractants–they can help you with others like chicken coops, compost, etc.) Missoula Bears is also the place to report a bear sighting or get additional information.