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Forest Service lifts Bear Creek closure in Madison Range


Forest Service officials on Oct. 19 lifted closures of the Bear Creek area leading into the Lee Metcalf Wilderness southeast of Ennis.

“We still want people to be aware that this is bear country and that there are inherent risks when visiting these remote areas,” said Madison District Ranger Dale Olson. “Visitors need to take precautions to ensure they are safe as bears in this area will continue be active for at least three more weeks.”

Some safety tips to keep in mind in bear country are:
– Carry bear spray and make sure it is readily available.
– Special rules apply for storing food and attractants on the Beaverhead-Deerlodge, make sure to store them appropriately.
– Game carcasses can be stored in a solid sided vehicle or horse trailer, a bear resistant container, or by hanging your carcasses 10 feet off the ground and four feet away from trees or support poles.
– Be aware of your surroundings. Use caution and make plenty of noise before approaching areas where a bear may not hear, smell or see you coming, and avoid bear food sources. Avoid areas where you smell something dead or see birds circling overhead.
– Watch for signs of bear like tracks, scat and markings on trees.
– Avoid hiking or hunting alone and never let your small children run ahead or wander.
– It may take some of the adventure out of your visit, but stay on the trail and you’ll reduce the likelihood of a bear encounter.
– Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
– Check trailheads and other locations for current bear related information.
– If you do have an encounter with a bear, report it to 1-800-TIP-MONT, a 24-hour number.

For more information, contact the Madison Ranger District at (406) 682-4253.

Tester calls on Army Corps to protect Yellowstone


Sen. Jon Tester is calling on the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to work with state and local officials to ensure the health of the Yellowstone River.
Tester’s request comes on the heels of a large-scale fish kill in the Yellowstone River. Noting that the Yellowstone supports fishing guides, rafting companies, hotels and restaurants, Tester wants the Corps to take steps to guarantee the river remains a vibrant ecosystem.
“The Yellowstone River has been experiencing near record low flows and high temperatures, which stress fish populations and exacerbate the impacts of a parasite that causes proliferative kidney disease,” Tester wrote in an Oct. 18 letter to the Corps. “As we see these very real impacts of climate change, I stand ready to work with the Corps on projects to increase the overall health and resiliency of the Yellowstone River.”
Tester, a long-term advocate for outdoor recreation, is asking the Corps to use its existing authority to protect riparian areas, restore instream flows and achieve other ecosystem restoration benefits that help ease the impacts of extreme weather events and strengthen the future health of the river.
In August, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks closed an unprecedented 183 miles of the Yellowstone after a parasite left more than 4,000 mountain whitefish dead. FWP reopened the last stretch of river to all recreation on Sept. 23.

Yellowstone visitors deter bear encounter with bear spray


After surprising and then being charged by a grizzly bear Oct. 22, a couple fishing along the Lamar River effectively deployed their bear spray and saved themselves from injury.  

John and Lisa Vandenbos from Bozeman parked at a pullout near the Specimen Ridge trailhead in the Lamar Valley, east of Tower Junction. They walked cross-country to the Lamar River and, while scouting for fishing spots, surprised an adult grizzly bear that was feeding on a partially consumed carcass. The bear immediately charged the couple and came within 9 feet when both individuals quickly discharged their bear spray. 

The bear initially left, but when attempting to charge the couple again, it ran into the original cloud of bear spray. Upon making contact with the cloud, the bear retreated across the river and up the adjacent hillside. The couple did not sustain injuries.  

The Vandenboses left the area immediately, returned to their vehicle and reported the incident to a park ranger. Park rangers do not intend to search for the bear since this incident was a surprise encounter with a bear defending a carcass.

“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s bear management specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for visitors to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears.” 

Visit Yellowstone’s A Bear Doesn’t Care Campaign at for more information.  

HRDC presents community needs survey results in Big Sky


Nearly 20 people gathered on Oct. 24 in the Big Sky Chapel for a Human Resource Development Council town hall meeting, to hear the results of the HRDC Community Needs Assessment survey. It was one of eight meetings held by the organization in the region, from West Yellowstone to White Sulphur Springs.

According to HRDC representative Maggie Sizemore, only 19 Big Sky residents filled out the survey that went live in early September. However, she said approximately 250 of the more than 800 respondents surveyed in Gallatin, Park and Meagher counties didn’t include their zip codes, potentially resulting in the low Big Sky results.

The key findings from the survey included a lack of affordable housing in rural communities, a need for more public transportation options, and poor access to health and wellness, particularly specialists—53 percent of respondents said mental health/suicide prevention services were lacking in their communities.

At the Big Sky meeting, some attendees brought up the fact that they didn’t have health insurance or they’re underinsured, without the resources to deal with an unexpected medical emergency.

Affordable housing was a major talking point in Big Sky, and according to HRDC Community Development Manager Brian Guyer, people recognized that the needs for housing in this resort community are across the spectrum—seasonal and short-term rentals, as well as year-round and long-term options.

Guyer added that the Big Sky Community Housing Trust project is on schedule, though it’s waiting for final plat approval from Gallatin County.

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