Study shows Montanans support grizzlies in some form, but also support hunting
MONTANA LIVING — A new survey of Montanans shows positive attitudes toward grizzly bears and support for the presence of grizzly bears within the state, however acceptance of bear presence in areas closer to residential and agricultural areas is lower than in remote public land areas.
Researchers with the University of Montana worked with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks biologists to better understand Montanans’ perspectives about grizzly bears and grizzly bear management in Montana. A survey questionnaire was mailed to over 5,000 households randomly selected from across Montana, and 1,783 adults responded between November 2019 and January 2020. The survey’s confidence interval is plus or minus 3.5 percent. A summary of the results and the full survey is available to read online here.
Montanans’ opinions were divided on the most effective tool for preventing a grizzly bear attack: 30 percent believed bear spray, 19 percent believed a firearm, 26 percent believed that bear spray and firearms are equally effective, and 25 percent reported they did not know. When asked whether they had carried a firearm to deter grizzly bears within the past three years, 39 percent of Montanans reported they had, and 61 percent reported they had not.
A sizable majority of Montanans supported some form of potential grizzly bear hunting: 49 percent supported enough hunting to manage grizzly bear population size; 30 percent supported a very limited season that does not affect their population size; and, four percent supported as much grizzly bear hunting as possible.
Seventeen percent responded that grizzly bears should never be hunted in Montana. A majority (61 percent) agreed or strongly agreed that people should have the opportunity to hunt grizzly bears as long as populations can withstand the pressure, whereas 24 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with this notion.
Views were more mixed for other questions related to hunting grizzly bears. When asked if hunting should be used as a tool to reduce conflict, 46 percent agreed or strongly agreed, and 36 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed. When asked if hunting would make grizzly bears more wary of humans, 39 percent agreed or strongly agreed, while 32 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed.
A majority (60 percent) of Montanans agreed or strongly agreed that people should learn to live with grizzly bears near their homes, whereas 20 percent disagreed or strongly disagreed with this notion. When asked about actions that people can take to reduce grizzly bear-human conflict on their property, a majority conveyed willingness to take these actions.
Only eight percent of Montanans reported they would be unwilling to secure attractants on their property, whereas 51 percent reported they had done this within the past three years and 41 percent reported they had not done this in the past three years but would be willing to do so. Among Montanans who reported being livestock producers, a majority (63 percent) had or would be willing to alter livestock practices to mitigate risk of grizzly bear predation and 71 percent had or would be willing to participate in livestock carcass removal programs. Nonetheless, a minority of livestock-owners reported that they would be unwilling to alter livestock practices (37 percent) or participate in livestock carcass removal programs (29 percent).
Asked about other actions, almost all Montanans (94 percent) reported they had or would be willing to carry bear spray while recreating or hunting and 96 percent had or would be willing to follow food storage guidelines on public lands.