Most of Montana’s 76 Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) open May 15. With the long winter and heavy snowpack, wildlife still have limited areas, in some places, left to forage.
People who are looking to get out to the WMAs this time of year should remember to keep vigilant to avoid conflicts with wildlife, particularly bears.
Bears, elk and shed-antler hunters will be sharing the same space once the WMAs open. Shed hunting on WMAs remains a popular activity.
Most animals see, hear and smell humans long before humans detect the presence of animals. Depending on the distance between the animals and humans, the animals decide whether to stay, defend themselves or flee.
- Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
- Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
- Stay on trails or rural roads.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Keep children close.
- Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Don’t approach a bear; respect their space and move off.
Montana’s popular Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area will not open until June 1.
(Photo source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks)