Explorebigsky.com Staff Writer

HELENA – This year, five grizzly attacks have been reported in Yellowstone country.

None of the attacks were life threatening, but seven people faced substantial injuries, including two hikers near Canyon Village in Yellowstone; two contract workers near Island Park, Idaho; a man irrigating his property just south of Cody, Wyo.; and a woman hiking on Montana’s Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

With an estimated 718 grizzlies now inhabiting the Greater Yellowstone, the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee recommends hunters and anyone spending time in the backcountry carry and know how to use bear spray.

The IGBC also urges hunters to take other bear-aware safety measures:

Hunt with a partner and pay attention to fresh bear sign like bear tracks, scat and concentrations of natural foods. Use caution when hunting areas with evidence of bear activity or areas with scavenging birds such as magpies, ravens or crows.

Most grizzly bears will leave an area if they sense human presence. Hunters who observe a grizzly bear or suspect a bear is nearby should leave the area. If you do encounter a grizzly, stay calm, don’t run, and determine if the bear is actually aware of your presence. Always keep the bear in sight as you back away and leave the area.

Get harvested big game out of the woods quickly, and never attempt to frighten or haze a bear from a carcass. Contact FWP if a bear has consumed a carcass or covered it with debris rendering it unsalvageable.

Guidelines for using bear spray:

– Each person should carry a can of bear spray.

– Bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.

– If a bear is moving toward you from a distance of 30-60 feet, direct the spray downward toward the front of the bear with a slight side-to-side motion so the bear spray billows up and creates a wide cloud acting as a barrier between you and the bear.

– If the bear is within 30 feet, spray continuously at the front of the bear until it breaks its charge.

– Spray additional bursts if the bear continues towards you. Sometimes, just the noise of the spray and the appearance of the spray cloud is enough to deter a bear from continuing its charge.

– A full canister of bear spray is essential for bear encounters, and the expiration date should be checked annually.

– Be aware of the wind direction – spraying into the wind will incapacitate you and won’t be affective against the bear.

No deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, bear spray has demonstrated success in a variety of situations in fending off threatening and attacking bears and preventing injury to the person and animal involved.

For more on bears, visit the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov.