The weekend commonly called the ‘gateway to summer’, Memorial Day is upon us, and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has some advice to stay safe no matter what outdoor activities you may choose.

FWP Region Two Education and Program Manager Vivaca Crowser began with water safety tips. She said it may be a little early yet to float area rivers.

“This time of year the water levels are high and getting higher and in most places the water is really moving fast and its cold,” said Crowser. “Just be sure that especially if you're heading on a river to have your life jacket on and to scout ahead to be extra careful. In a lot of cases, it's best to just avoid some of that cold fast moving water until it subsides a bit here later in the spring. Be sure to review all those water safety tips, have a lifejacket with you, have it on, and be safe out there.”

Crowser said if you’ll be hiking in western Montana forests this holiday weekend, it’s definitely the time to be ‘bear aware’, because the bears are out of their dens and some may have cubs.

“If you can travel with somebody when you're out biking or hiking, that's always a good idea,” she said. “Make a little noise, pay extra attention to the ‘bear sign’ that might be on the trail, and of course have your bear spray with you. Have it within easy reach and know how to use it. There are some really great videos online that can run you through that and we're also going to be offering a free clinic on Monday, June 13 for anyone in Missoula, who'd like to come to our office (3201 Spurgin Road) and run through some of those bear safety tips and practice using that bear spray.”

After recent reports of crowded campgrounds and forest trails, Crowser encourages those seeking campsites to register online before the trip.

“If you're headed to a Forest Service site, that's a different spot than if you're headed to a Fish, Wildlife and Parks State Park,” she said. “For example, on the FWP website, you'll find the state park reservation link and that's a great spot to go. You’ll find a lot of good online resources on our website as well just with some general tips. So things to remember out there; make sure you have a sense of where you're going, what to expect, what amount of parking there might be and carpool when you can.”

You may also encounter some bad actors during the Memorial Day weekend, so Crowser provided some information to contact authorities.

“If you're out there and you see something going on that is hurting the place, illegal, or whatever the case may be, gather as much information as you can,” she said. “So if you can get a license plate or any other details, make a note of that. And then you can 1-800-TIP MONT. It’s a line that's available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you spot something you can just call and report those sorts of things, and we'll respond and see what we can do.”

Crowser said a successful trip always ends up safely at home.

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