Kylie Kembel educates residents of the Red Lodge area about grizzly bears |

Although she has moved from black bear management issues in the forests of northwestern Montana to the Beartooth Front in the south-central region of the state to deal with grizzly bears, Kylie Kembel said the work remains. pretty much the same.

“Everyone struggles with bears all over the state,” she said.

Kembel was one of Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ hires in 2017 to bolster its bear program, now comprised of 11 experts located across the state. As a bear management technician, she mainly deals with educating the public on how to live and play safely as black bears and grizzly bears become more common along the Beartooth front. These educational efforts extend from civic and school groups to local landowners.

Kylie Kembel, human-bear conflict specialist at FWP, talks to passers-by. Much of his job is to educate the public about bears in the Red Lodge area to keep humans and bears safe.

“My role is to work with the people in Region 5 who have questions, concerns, struggles with bears,” she said. “People who ask me to come to a group event usually have some understanding, but some of the more detailed aspects they have questions about. “

Kembel attended the University of Montana majoring in Wildlife Biology. This has taken her to work in the wilderness of the West, including volunteering outside of Lander, Wyoming, and in the Flathead Valley, next to Glacier National Park and the vast resort. Bob Marshall Wilderness.

Red Lodge was chosen by FWP as the location to place Kembel due to the growing presence of grizzly bears in an area that for decades only had to worry about black bears. Grizzly bears began to appear regularly around 2011, possibly following the mountains of Wyoming. Two years later, a pair of bears were captured after wandering around the Red Lodge area. They have been moved as reports of eight to ten bears spread across the landscape were passed on to wildlife officials.

The increase in the number of grizzly bears along the Beartooth Front is due to the success of their protection under the Endangered Species Act, as well as the growing animal population in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. , whose heart is Yellowstone National Park.

Along the Beartooth Front, grizzly bears often use drainages as travel corridors, following streams down the mountains to the foothills where they are more likely to collide with homes, ranches, towns, and farms.

“They are just looking for food everywhere,” Kembel said.

Its main focus is conflict prevention, helping people understand what bear attractants are and how to stay safe in bear country. The themes have been widely circulated for years.

Homeowners should collect fruit from trees in their yards, keep barbecues inside garages, and avoid putting pet food outside. Hikers should travel in groups, make noise on the trail, wear bear spray, and know how to use it. Campers should store their food inside a hard-sided vehicle when not there or at night.

Kylie Kembel, FWP Bear Specialist

Kylie Kembel, human-bear conflict specialist at Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks based in Red Lodge, shows a bear trap to a young boy on Saturday, September 18, at an event in Joliet.

Backcountry hunters must hang the carcass of a deer or elk they kill out of the reach of a bear. Backpackers are also advised to hang their food in bear country or keep it in bear-proof containers.

Kembel is also working with the larger Yellowstone ecosystem subcommittee on its information and education activities for the entire region. She works in partnership with other officials in Yellowstone National Park and Wyoming Game and Fish, to name a few.

The goal is to prevent bears from associating humans with food. It is safer for bears and humans. The old adage that a fed bear is a dead bear is often true. When problems arise and a bear needs to be removed or killed, the Wildlife Services, a branch of the United States Department of Agriculture, is called in. Wildlife Services also partners with FWP to investigate livestock depredation, sometimes trapping problem bears to move them or, when bears are repeat offenders, to euthanize the animal.

FWP has released a 3-year-old, 211-pound male grizzly bear in the North Fork of Flathead Drainage after he was captured north of Columbia Falls for killing chickens. Remember to secure attractants and use electric fencing to protect your chickens if you live in bear country.

The increased education effort has paid off, Kembel said, with more and more people in the community asking him for advice on how to live safely in an area where owners never had seen grizzly bears before. His work isn’t limited to the spring, when bears wake up from hibernation, and fall, when they eat a lot to replenish their calories before their long winter nap. Instead, she said she was busy “the whole time the bears are awake.”

It’s okay because Kembel loves what she does.

“There are a lot of fun aspects to my job,” she said. “To work with people who are discovering bears for the first time and to help them understand that there are ways to be here and to enjoy Montana with bears, to help people to understand that it is very rewarding.”

Grizzly claws

A grizzly bear skin with its claws attached is one of the educational tools used by Kembel.

Bears are also a very charismatic species, she noted, as well as adaptable.

“We’re trying to understand bears, but at the end of the day they’re wild animals. “

His role, along with that of other members of the FWP, similar agencies and conservation groups in spreading the word about life with bears, will be critical for large animals to survive in an increasingly developing landscape. in what were once largely rural areas. Additionally, bears have increasingly encountered hikers and campers using forests since the COVID-19 pandemic, some of whom are unsure of how to responsibly recreate in bear country.

“There’s nowhere you can go in the Beartooths where you shouldn’t think of grizzly bears,” said Shawn Stewart, FWP wildlife biologist at Red Lodge. “And with COVID, people are everywhere. “

Young students

Kylie Kembel, human-bear conflict specialist at FWP, shows children different bear skins that she uses as part of her educational effort.

Kembel’s educational efforts have the added effect of educating the public in the hopes of increasing understanding and acceptance of the species.

“I think we need people to support the bears if they want to stay,” Kembel said.

If anyone is worried about bears, she encourages them to contact her for more information.

“People can contact us whenever they have questions and concerns. “

His phone number is 406-850-1131.

Bear biologist Kylie Kembel discusses bear management strategies in this 2018 video produced by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

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