Sure, Missoula is home to the University of Montana Grizzlies sports teams.
But there is a living version of the bears that are roaming near Missoula.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has received reports of grizzly bears in different drainages just outside of Missoula over the past few months. Several reports point to a likely grizzly but remain unconfirmed, while others have been verified, and all serve as a reminder to be extra bear aware.
A grizzly was incidentally trapped just southeast of Missoula, on the east side of the Bitterroot Valley, as part of a black-bear research study led by the MPG Ranch. The bear, a 275 pound, three-year-old adult male, had a tag that indicated it was once captured in the southern Flathead Valley as a move to prevent conflicts. Because the bear did not have a history of conflict, FWP staff responded and released it on-site.
To the north of Missoula, a photograph taken in July confirmed a grizzly in the north hills areas, near Snowbowl, and there have been several recent reports of a grizzly in the Woods Gulch area of the Rattlesnake and Marshall Mountain area, just to the northeast of Missoula. Those reports have not been confirmed, but the details are consistent with a grizzly bear, which have been documented to pass through these areas before.
In the Clinton area east of Missoula, three recent reports also point to the likelihood of a grizzly in the area, although FWP has not been able to confirm.
Although grizzly bears don’t inhabit these areas in numbers like they do in some other parts of the state, grizzlies are dispersing into more places as they travel between areas with established populations. Grizzly bear activity in the greater Missoula area has steadily increased over the past 10 years. This area sits between established populations of grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to the southeast and Northern Continental Divide to the northwest.
“We’ve had enough confirmed grizzly bears in the Missoula area to remind us to expect grizzlies in spots that we live and recreate not too far from town,” Jamie Jonkel, FWP’s western Montana bear specialist, said. “This is a time of year where bears are out feeding on berries, and we are often recreating—biking, hiking and camping—in the same areas, so it is important to be extra cautious. Around home, it is important to keep bear attractants secured.”
As the grizzly bear population continues to expand across Montana, residents can take the following steps to help protect their property and be safe while recreating.
How to avoid attracting bears to your property:
Store garbage in an IGBC-certified bear resistant bin or other similarly resistant building or container at all times until the day of disposal.
Avoid leaving food or smell attractants next to windows, doors or outside walls.
Do not leave out pet food, bird feeders and bird seed or barbecues.
Bears are attracted to fruit-bearing trees and bushes, gardens and compost piles. Electric fencing can be effective at deterring bears as well as routinely picking fallen and ripe fruit.
Secure vulnerable livestock (chickens, goats, sheep) with an electric fence whenever possible.
Tips for recreating in bear country:
Carry bear spray close at hand and know how to use it.
Travel in groups whenever possible and plan to be back to your vehicle in the daylight hours.
Avoid carcass sites and concentrations of ravens and other scavengers.
Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
Make noise, especially near streams or in thick forest where hearing and visibility is limited. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
Don't approach a bear.
For more information being bear aware, visit fwp.mt.gov/bear-aware.