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Woman finds a bear rummaging through her garbage

Bear Awareness for property owners in Montana
Posted at 12:58 PM, Jun 14, 2024

ANACONDA — ANACONDA — An Anaconda woman got a huge surprise when she looked out her window around 9 p.m. on June 12 and saw a giant black bear getting into her garbage can just outside her home on Yankee Flats.

"I looked out the window and the bear was just out there snacking away. I’m still, like, a little shocked and startled because I knew that they were going to be out here and around me but I didn’t know like that close," says Kayla Hicks.

Hicks is originally from Kansas and is renting the property while she works on assignment until November. She says this isn’t the first time a bear has rummaged through her garbage but it’s the first time she has seen it do so and that’s why she called Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks for help.

"If a bear is coming into some type of food source at your house, it’s good to secure that attractant now because bears have a really good memory and so they’ll remember, you know, where they got food frequently or when they got food. So, it is good to try to think about securing that attractant so that it doesn’t become a reoccurring problem," says Brad Balis, a bear management technician for the Upper Clark Fork and part of the Big Hole region for Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks.

Balis says this is the first he has learned of a bear in the Yankee Flats area but he encourages homeowners to call FWP if they spot a bear causing problems on their property. He says the more a bear frequents a residential area like the one located just 10 miles outside of Anaconda, the more the bear will become used to humans, and that can be life-threatening for the bear.

"The danger for the bear is those food rewards, getting those food rewards. It kind of starts associating homes with that food reward and then, you know, from it being around a house it's going to start seeing people more frequently. That's going to be less of a concern. If they are getting into trouble we try to give them a second chance but if they do continue to get into trouble and we know it's the same bear then occasionally we do have to lethally remove them," says Balis.

Balis says issues with bears are usually preventable because they let their noses guide them to food sources like garbage, bird feeders, and grease traps on bbq grills. Bears are also drawn to chickens because of their scattered feed and the noise they make. Securing these items for the long term is the best deterrent and Kayla Hicks now keeps her trash can locked up in a shed until collection day.

"I mean, I may not be from here but I like the wildlife and everything so I want to learn more about how to handle the situation," says Hicks.

"My worry is that I have an active two-year-old. So, just trying to keep her safe and everything and she likes being outside too. So we just have to be careful and watch the surroundings."

Balis says there are resources available to help homeowners purchase bear-proof garbage cans and other items that are bear deterrents from organizations likeDefenders of Wildlife, People and Carnivores, and The American Bear Foundation. Balis says if a homeowner is willing to switch to a bear-resistant container, People and Carnivores will cover half of the cost associated with the purchase of the container.

"A lot of times folks will wait before they reach out to us but I would encourage people if they do have a bear hanging around their home or getting into trouble, just contact the Region 2 office directly and the number for them is 406-542-5500," says Balis.