HELENA — The first signs of bears emerging from hibernation are being reported in Montana.
Grizzly tracks were seen near Helmville where the animal had found a road-killed elk. Bears are usually lethargic for the first couple of weeks and look for easy food sources.
Bears have typically emerged from winter hibernation in March and April Montana. Most of the early risers are male bears while females with cubs will remain in the den several weeks longer.
However, not all bears hibernate. Location, environment, weather and access to a food source determine when a bear goes into hibernation and when it wakes up. If there is a harsh, early winter, bears may begin to hibernate earlier. The same applies when bears come out of hibernation. With a warmer winter, bears could emerge in February.
Another factor in hibernation is the time of year relating to the amount of daylight. A bear's internal clock responds to day length, telling it when to go into the den and when to emerge.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) say people should be bear aware at all times of the year and take steps to prevent a potentially deadly interaction.
FWP states bear spray is the best way to reduce the severity of a bear attack. Bear spray should be easy to access and people should always check the expiration date on the canister before venturing out.