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Firefighters prepare for bear encounters in Glacier National Park

Posted at 7:05 PM, Sep 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-09 21:05:23-04

As bears prepare for hibernation, they’re looking for food and firefighters working the fires in Glacier National Park said they’ve become a safety issue in camp and along the fire line.

"There has been a lot of bears spotted out here, quite a few black bears, quite a few grizzlies, the crews have been reporting pretty much every day," Justin Kaber, Operation Breach Director for the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team, said.

When it comes to a bear attack, bear spray is the best defense, but in a real situation, wildlife officials said one of the most common mistakes someone can make is not knowing how to use it.

On Tuesday, Kaber said officials briefed crews on how to use bear spray if they encounter a bear and measures to take so as to not attract bears.

"A lot of us are local so we deal with bears quite often, but we try to inbrief out of area resources," Kaber said. "Bear spray is available for those folks and we really go over things like ‘pack it in, pack it out,’ keeping lunches, no food out on line."

Northern Rockies Incident Management Team Fire Information Officer Mike Cole said firefighters are instructed to not leave any food behind.

Along with keeping attractants like garbage and food away, firefighters must also keep anything a bear can smell away.

"Don’t have anything like toiletries that might have an odor to them," Cole said. "An underarm perspirant, lip balm, anything like that, you don’t have anything in your tent, you just have your sleeping bag and your clothes and that’s it."

As bears prepare to den, residents and recreationists are also urged to remove and secure food attractants to prevent conflicts.