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Don't feed the bears

East of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, grizzlies are being seen on the prairie where they have not been for more than 100 years. 

In many towns, people have problems with deer, raccoons and coyotes.

We are now past 1 million people in Montana, and approaching 200,000 elk, 1,000 wolves, 5,000 mountain lions, 15,000 black bears and 2,000 grizzly bears (including the Yellowstone population, which spreads over Montana, Idaho and Wyoming).

Part of the reason for hunting is to manage wildlife numbers. But changing human behavior can also help.

No one in their right mind suggests we allow mountain lions to roam our streets, predators to decimate a well-run livestock operation or elk and deer to eat away a farmer’s annual profits.

We also are not returning to days of no-limits, commercial hunting when our ancestors just about wiped out whole wildlife populations.

There must be a balance, which might mean occasionally changing our old, harmful habits.

If our home has garbage strewn about, apples from last season left lying under the tree, or piles of grain near the bins out back, why does the hungry critter that wanders in get the blame?

Even if we simply leave pet food or small pets out at night and Fido disappears, or the backyard is trashed, isn’t the culprit probably found in the morning mirror?

We may want nature on our terms — soft and gentle, tame and visible — but that’s not always the case.

Humans have changed nature by introducing some species and removing others. Then when we don’t like the answer we want to blame someone else. But part of we need to accept that humans are partly responsible and do everything we can to help keep animals and humans separated no matter where we live.

— Bruce Auchly, Fish, Wildlife and Parks

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