Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks
 
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Smith River State Park


 

Photo of man fishing from raft on Smith River. Photo of Smith River. Photo of angler selecting a fly from box of flies. Photo of three young women cooling off in the river.

Smith River State Park

Food Storage / Be Bear Aware

When recreating in bear country it is critical that visitors never allow bears to obtain human food, garbage or other attractants.

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Mandatory Food Storage
photo of black bear

The Smith River flows through black bear habitat and there is a history of bear activity in and around the boat camps.

When recreating in bear country it is critical that visitors never allow bears to obtain human food, garbage or other attractants. Bears that have learned to obtain human food in the boat camps often become “food conditioned” and may become increasingly bold and aggressive in their efforts to obtain foods which increases the likelihood of attack resulting in serious injury or death. Bears that have become “food conditioned” and display aggressive behavior often must be killed to protect human life; thus the saying, A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR.

In order to minimize human-black bear conflicts not only for public safety, but also the well being of area black bears, a mandatory food storage regulation ( pdf icon and link to mandatory food storage regulation 81 KB) was implemented beginning in the 2016 float season. In summary, the regulation states that all food, garbage and other attractants that are unattended during daytime hours, or not in immediate use during nighttime hours, must be secured using one or more of the following methods:

  • Secured in a portable bear resistant container, portable electric fence, or other storage device or system approved for such use by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). See IGBC Certified Bear-Resistant Products and where available .
  • Suspended at least 10 feet vertically above the ground and 4 feet horizontally from the trunk of a tree or other upright support that a bear could climb. Cutting, limbing, nailing into or otherwise damaging trees and/or constructing a fixed device is prohibited. 
  • Secured inside a hard-sided vehicle, camping unit or towed unit (applicable at Camp Baker and Eden Bridge only). 

Bear attractants include:

  • All human food including canned and bottled foods and beverages
  • Garbage including micro-litter
  • Cooking equipment containing residual food particles and odors
  • Residual food or grease within the fire grate
  • Fish and fish entrails
  • Personal hygiene products

Definitions

  • Attended - at least one adult person (attendee) is physically present within 100 feet of food and attractants during daytime hours.
  • Attendee - an adult (18 years of age or older) in the physical presence of food and other attractants.
  • Immediate Use - transporting, organizing, preparing, cooking, serving, eating, washing cooking equipment and/or otherwise handling or using food and attractants.
  • Daytime hours - ½ hour before sunrise until ½ hour after sunset.
  • Nighttime hours - ½ hour after sunset until ½ hour before sunrise.
Camping & Food Storage in Bear Country
photo of tents along the Smith River
  • Food, garbage and other attractants must be stored securely in an IGBC bear resistant device such as a cooler, container and/or within electric fencing. Attractants may also be suspended at least 10 feet from the ground and 4 feet horizontally from a vertical support. For a complete list of approved Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) products, see Certified Bear-Resistant Products.
  • It’s strongly recommended that each group have one or more canisters of bear spray in their possession.
  • When meal planning, consider the type, volume, weight and smell of food you plan to bring. Plan meals with foods that are less odorous, easier to properly store and don’t result in left-overs or excessive waste. Pre-cooked and pre-packaged meals are an easy and convenient option.
  • Ensure that the food and beverages you bring will fit into bear resistant containers and/or be properly stored in an IGBC approved bear resistant manner (electric fencing). This includes all canned and bottled food and beverages.
  • There are numerous types of bear resistant containers and electric fences that provide an effective means of securing food, garbage and attractants. Please go to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) website  for additional information on approved food storage devices.
  • If possible, set up the cooking/eating, food storage and sleeping/tenting areas 100 yards from each other.
  • Strain food particles from dishwater and pack out with garbage. Dump dish water directly into the river or broadcast it at least 100 yards from the sleeping/tenting area. Please remember to use only bio-degradable dish soap.
  • Pack out everything – burying or throwing garbage or left-over food into the pit toilet is prohibited.
  • Do not burn left-over food in the fire grate.
  • Wash hands after cooking or handling fish.
  • Keep tents and sleeping bags completely free of food, food odors and beverages. Do not sleep in the clothes you cooked in.
  • Never store food or other attractants inside your tent.
  • Keep bear spray and a flashlight readily available.
If a Bear Enters Your Boat Camp
  • If a bear enters your boat camp it is likely there for one reason — food.
  • Unholster your bear spray with canister in hand.
  • Remain calm, group together, pick up small children and while facing the bear, slowly retreat to a place of safety.
  • If the bear continues to approach, try to scare the bear off by yelling or making other loud noises, waiving your arms and acting aggressively.
  • If the bear charges/attacks, discharge the bear spray.
  • If the bear spray does not deter the bear, fight back with all your power including fists, kicks, sticks, rocks etc.
Hiking in Bear Country
  • Hike with a group, never alone. Keep children close. Scan the area for bear sign.
  • Make noise by talking, occasional shouting, singing, or clapping your hands.
  • If you encounter a bear while hiking, don’t run. Running may trigger a chase response in the bear.
  • If the bear is not aware of you, unholster your bear spray, slowly back away and leave the area.
  • If the bear is aware of you, while unholstering your bear spray, talk to the bear in a soothing voice to let it know you’re a human. Raise your arms to appear larger.
  • Slowly back away avoiding direct eye contact with the bear.
  • If the bear displays aggressive behavior (snapping jaws, slapping the ground with its paws, ears laid back), you are too close.
  • If the bear rushes forward, hold your ground with bear spray in the ready. Often, bears will bluff charge and stop within a few feet of you in an attempt to intimidate you. Back away slowly while talking softly.
  • If the bear continues to follow you, stand your ground waiving your arms, clapping your hands, yelling and/or throwing objects (rocks, sticks).
  • If the bear charges/attacks, discharge your bear spray. If the bear spray does not deter the bear, fight back with all your power including fists, sticks, rocks etc.
Bear Incident Reporting

Please help park managers properly address human-bear conflicts by promptly reporting all bear observations and incidents to park personnel.

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