MISSOULA — A homeowner in the upper Rattlesnake neighborhood shot and killed a cinnamon-phase black bear on his porch Thursday night.
Authorities said they suspect the bear had become habituated to human food, and warned that a second bear exhibiting similar behavior has been reported in the area.
As happens every spring in the Rattlesnake, "droves of bears" began coming into the valley about a week and a half ago after a winter of hibernation, said Jamie Jonkel, an FWP wildlife management specialist.
FWP recently reminded residents that they should take down bird feeders; keep garbage inside closed garages, secured sheds or bear-resistant trash cans; keep their pet food inside, clean up chicken and livestock feed and remove all odorous substances that can attract bears.
Nevertheless, FWP began receiving reports of that cinnamon-phase bear entering garages and tipping garbage cans in search of food. Several people tried to frighten it off, but it would come right up to their homes, leaning on their doors and slobbering, a behavior that indicates it has been fed by humans.
"Someone's been throwing hot dogs or slices of bread to this guy," Jonkel said.
Then last night, a resident of the upper Rattlesnake who preferred to remain anonymous had a run-in with the bear, Jonkel said. He spotted it in his backyard, attempting to roll his bear-resistant garbage can. He tried hollering at the bear, but the animal came up to his porch. The man, who had his small dog with him, shot and killed the bear.
Since there's another bear in the area exhibiting similar behavior, authorities remind residents that it's illegal to feed any wildlife or leave out attractants. Garbage, for instance, should be secured and not placed out until 5 a.m. the day of pick-up.
Once bears have become habituated to human food, they'll likely end up pursuing more, which may place them into contact with humans – and, ultimately, result in their being killed.
Newcomers fed bears in the Rattlesnake neighborhood several years ago, Jonkel said.
"You get new folks in there and they think it's pretty cute to drink cocktails on the back porch and throw hard candy and Wonder Bread" out for the wildlife, Jonkel said. "Now we have another bear exhibiting similar behavior."
Anyone with information about residents intentionally feeding bears is asked to contact the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at 406-542-5500 or use the anonymous tip line, 1-800-TIP-MONT.
For more information on laws in the "bear-buffer zones" including the Rattlesnake, go to missoulabears.org.