Biologist asks are people having bear problems, or bears having people problems?

Since May of 2010 wildlife biologists have handled 21 bears on the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“8 of those bears are dead or removed,” said Wildlife biologist Stacy Courville with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

As bears emerge from their dens wildlife managers are urging people to bring in bird feeders, pet food and garbage, and electrify their fences. This last part is in response to the growing popularity of raising chickens, and other livestock like goats, sheep, and pigs on a small scale.

Bear and Lion Specialist Erik Wenum with Fish, Wildlife and Parks  out of Kalispell said they first started seeing bears emerge from their dens in March. He said they start getting a spike in bear activity as we head further into April and bears move from their dens, looking for food. Both FWP and the Tribes urge people to remove attractants from their property by bringing in pet food, garbage, and electrifying fences to protect small livestock, like chickens.

“The question that I always have to refer back to, or always fall back on, to try to get people to think about what they might have around their house or in their yard, is ‘who is actually having problems with whom?’ Are people having bear problems, or are bears having people problems,” Wenum said.

Courville said they look at whether a bear has become habituated, or used to humans, and also if it’s come to associate humans with food when deciding whether to remove it from the population. He and Wenum said there are resources available to guide people in effective electric fence installation.

There’s also a program available through the Defenders of Wildlife to offset some of the costs of installing an electric fence. Defenders can help with 50% of the cost of installing an electric fence, up to $500.

Up in Alaska they had a little bit of fun with teaching bear awareness. This video is from a 2009 Bear Aware short film or video contest:

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