Montana wilderness has bears. Montana TOWNS have bears right now too. There are a few very simple, but absolutely crucial things you must do NOW to ensure black bears don't cause any trouble in your 'hood.

We've had a black bear mama and at least one cub in my Bozeman neighborhood for the last few weeks. I'm one of the few on the block who haven't actually seen the bears but I HAVE seen plenty of evidence of their visits.

From huge piles of bear poop to garbage picnic remnants, black bears usually let you know they have stopped by. Sneaky with the evidence, they are not.

We have been very careful at my house and STILL have gotten nailed by bears in the trash. Obviously, I leave the house quite early (around 5:15am) but my trash also gets picked up very early (around 7am.) Sometime in that short window, bam. We got 'trashed' by a black bear.

So what basic things do we need to do RIGHT NOW to minimize the in-town interaction with our black bears? Just a few quick tasks will help make your property and neighborhood less inviting.

NPS/Yellowstone Birds

1. PUT THOSE BIRD FEEDERS AWAY - Bird feeders are wonderful things to have around the yard most of the year, but Fall is not that time. Bears can't resist a pile of seeds and nuts falling on them like piñata candy. TWO of my neighbors forgot to take them down for the season, and mama bear got up on her hind legs and ripped huge branches off of trees to get 'em.

Photo: Michelle Wolfe

2. PICK UP THOSE APPLES AND OTHER FALLEN FRUIT - We all know it can be a back breaking job, but it's CRUCIAL to not leave a bear buffet on the street or in your backyard. I assure you, it's ain't no thing for a black bear to climb over your fence to get to your backyard so that area is just as important as fruit that hits the street.

Photo: Michelle Wolfe

3. KEEP YOUR TRASH CAN IN THE GARAGE FOR THE FALL - I don't love having my garage smell like trash but it's better than picking up shredded bags of refuse on your front lawn. I know. I've had to pick up that mess more than once. Don't roll out your trash can to the street the night before. Wait until the morning of your trash pick-up. As discussed above, that's not always a guarantee that our big, black furry visitors won't get into it but as least you've minimized the time it's outside and vulnerable to a bear picnic.

Tis the season to be bear aware, right in our city limits. Black bears have been wandering through Bozeman, Helena, Missoula, Livingston and many other towns. It's their time to bulk up for winter and they'll go looking for food wherever their nose takes them. If you're unlucky, your neighborhood black bear will leave you a thank you gift. Mine did.

Photo: Michelle Wolfe

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