What do you do when you meet a bear in the woods? Don't panic and back away slowly. Don't run! That was one of the tips from the Montana Bear Education Working Group Thursday at the Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor's Office in Hamilton. The "Bear Aware" trailer was loaded with plenty of material on how to handle or prevent bear encounters anywhere in Montana. Then, Thursday evening, a more detailed bear presentation brought people inside the building to get more informaton about recent bear behavior.

Danielle Oyler told KLYQ News that one of the main problems with people using bear spray is to not have the can in an easily accessible area and not knowing how to switch the safety trigger off. She also said the spray should start being used when the bear is about 35 feet away. But if the bear is charging toward you, use it as soon as you can. There was a motorized bear target Thursday where people could practice spray use (see photo above). Oyler said that bear encounters have increased in Montana, especially where bears are roaming into new territories, including the Bitterroot Valley. She said encountering any kind of bear - grizzly or black bear - can be avoided by making noise as you hike or hiking with a group of people. And, yes, bear spray works with other large animals such as moose or mountain lions. You can find more information at their Facebook page.

The demonstration also had examples of bear resistant trash containers, trying to solve -another problem in Montana residential areas. The Montana Bear Education Working Group is a partnership between Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, U.S.Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Conservation Society, Wildlife Management Institute and People & Carnivores.

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