Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks recently teamed up with the University of Montana to conduct a survey of state residents on their thoughts and opinions about grizzly bears.

FWP Education and Program Manager Dillon Tabish has details.

“Researchers with the University of Montana worked with us at Fish, Wildlife and Parks on a survey that went out across Montana aimed at better understanding Montanans’ perspectives about grizzly bears and grizzly bear management,” said Tabish. “This survey questionnaire was mailed to over 5,000 households, randomly selected across Montana, and we had over 1,700 adults respond between November 2019 to January 2020.”

Tabish said the positive thoughts about grizzly bears mostly depended on how close the bears were to respondents of the survey.

“Overall, the survey results really demonstrate the complex nature of grizzly bears and humans trying to coexist on the landscape here in Montana,” he said. “The survey results did show a positive attitude toward grizzly bears and support for the presence of grizzly bears within the state, however, that acceptance and tolerance to grizzly bears starts to dwindle a little bit when you get closer to residential areas and agricultural areas.”

Tabish expanded on that particular attitude.

“I mean, people are more tolerant of having grizzly bears in the mountains and more undeveloped habitats, where there's not a lot of people,” he said. “However, as you get closer to cities and residences and agricultural production, that tolerance goes down, and you know, that kind of makes sense from what most people know and feel, so the survey really informs that.”

One concrete result from the survey revealed almost universal support for using bear spray.

“There's other really interesting information in the survey as well that showed that most people are supportive of carrying bear spray, which is great,” he said.  “Almost 94% of Montanans surveyed reported that they would be willing to carry bear spray while recreating, so there’s just lots of information in this survey. It's pretty interesting.”

The FWP survey was conducted with UM’s Human Dimensions Lab in the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation.


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