This fall, Montana bears have been interacting with humans more than usual. A Missoula-area grizzly made national news when it fled from a woman wielding a zucchini. Violent maulings occurred in Yellowstone and in the Gravelly Range. Mischievous black bears have been dumpster diving and breaking into cars in Bozeman and Big Sky.
In the fall, as bears prepare to hibernate they go through a stage called hyperphagia, when they eat up to 20,000 calories a day. In the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, whitebark pine seeds are one of bears’ main food sources during this time. In recent years however, white pine blister rust fungus and mountain pine beetle epidemics have caused a major decrease in Western Montana whitebark pine stands.
“When there is a shortage of pine nuts…ravenous bears are more likely to focus on alternative foods, like garbage or hunter ‘gut piles,’ which brings them into conflict with humans more often,” states the American Institute of Biological Sciences.
To learn about bear attractants, how to tell if your residence is bear-friendly, and some bear-aware tools to help keep bears wild, visit the FWP online.