As thousands of hikers and outdoor lovers make their way into the wild country of western Montana for the upcoming Father’s Day weekend, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says ‘Be Bear Aware’.

District One Program Manager Dillon Tabish taps a familiar nail with this advice.

”Montana is bear country,” said Tabish. “It’s important this time of year to keep an eye out for bear sign and also to be bear aware when you’re out hunting or hiking, camping or anything outside. Carrying bear spray when you’re outside, and making sure you have it with you in case you come in contact with a bear or even a mountain lion.”

Tabish provides practical advice for anyone who may find themselves near a bear.

“It’s important that if you really do spot a bear that you make a little bit of noise so it can know you’re there, but not be threatened by you,” he said. “Start backing away slowly and get out of that area. Don’t run, but just slowly make some distance between you and that animal.”

Tabish emphasized that hikers should never place themselves between a mother bear and her cubs, as that could initiate an attack.

For those who live in bear country and a bruin is causing problems on your property, Tabish has advice for what to do.

“So, if a bear is on your property, likely it’s getting into something,” he said. “It might be garbage or bird feeders or chickens, so if you can try to reduce those attractants or secure them you will really reduce your chances of having a bear on your property. If it is on your property, make some noise, honk your horn, bang some pots and pans and try to give it a negative association with being on your property. We don’t want bears to think it’s OK to be near humans or to be on your property.”

Tabish advised anyone who is having problems with bears or other wildlife on their property to contact the Missoula office of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at 542-5520, or to visit the Missoula Bears website to report bear or mountain lion sightings.