Lots of bear activity down-valley right now

Patti Bear

A lot of bears are foraging at lower elevations right now, getting ready for winter . . .

Grizzly and black bears are roaming the Flathead Valley in greater abundance as they prepare to den up for the winter, scouring the valley floor for lower-elevation food sources after exhausting this year’s scant supply of berries.

The bears’ seasonal sate is known as “hyperphagia,” but this year’s drought has led to a dearth of natural foods. Meanwhile, as the ever-expanding human-wildlife interface continues to overlap, the bears are increasingly running into conflict with people, exasperating wildlife officials who urge residents in bear country to reduce conflicts by taking simple steps, like picking their fruit trees, locking up trash and storing pet and livestock feed indoors.

“This has been an extremely busy year,” Erik Wenum, bear and lion specialist with the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said. “We are receiving an average of 35 to 45 calls per day. They’re everywhere – downtown Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls. All the bears are at low elevations now and they’re looking far and wide for trash, birdseed and of course the ever-present fruit trees.”

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