Bear prompts school lockdown

2 Missoula bear sightings reported in less than 24 hours

By Don Fisher, KPAX News

MISSOULA — In the last 24 hours, two different black bear sightings have been confirmed in the same area of town, with one bear strolling along South Avenue in the middle of day.

Target Range Elementary School was forced to keep its students inside when a black bear was seen strolling down South Avenue early Monday afternoon.

A similar situation happened Sunday afternoon when a bear was reported near Kelly Island in a resident’s yard. Monday, one was seen near Target Range Elementary School, sending the school into a soft lock-down. No one was hurt.

These were two different bears.

“This bear today was definitely a black faced, so very very black. Where as the bear last night had kind of a brownish tint to it. So we are thinking it is indeed a separate bear,” FWP Conflict Specialist James Jonkel said.

Big Sky High School sophomore Hannah Hammond took this picture Monday. At about 1:30, FWP used a vehicle to “escort” the female bear to a safe location near Kelley Island.

Jonkel says bear sightings this close to town are not uncommon this time of year. He says they can become confused and wander when feeding, but he reminds residents to take precautions if they live near bear country.

“This is the time where they all come out of their dens. And they shunt right down into the valley floor where all the green up is. And we are expecting a dry drought summer, and this year everyone will have to work extra hard at keeping all their attractants contained,” Jonkel said.

Jonkel says that this bear season may be worse than usual because of the dry winter, which can make food sources like berries scarce.

Jonkel says about 30 bear sightings have been reported in the region, and stresses that residents lock away bird feeders, bird seed and garbage as they are the most common bear attractants.

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