KALISPELL, Mont. - Northwest Montana is bear country. And wildlife officials want to make sure people don't forget it.
"The bear fair is an educational event. It started about six years ago and it's a really great opportunity for folks to come out and learn how to be bear aware and how to live responsibly in bear country," said Lindsey Stutzman of Montana FWP.
The bear fair is put on each year by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks and the Montana Outdoor Legacy Foundation.
The goal, to educate residents, both old and new, on how to stay safe around bears.
"It's really important you know we constantly have an influx of new people moving into the area and it's just important to make sure everyones educated," said Stutzman.
The fair is a chance for visitors to learn how to tell a grizzly from a black bear and how to use bear spray. And with record attendance in Glacier National Park last month, it's important to teach the public how to protect themselves from bears too.
Counter Assault Bear Spray was on hand to demonstrate how to defend yourself in an attack.
"Well it's important that people practice beforehand because in an actual attack, a bear is moving very quickly, at about 42 miles an hour or three times faster than a human," said George Hyde, General Manager for Counter Assault.
And officials tell us the fair is not just a chance to teach the public how to protect themselves. It's also about how to protect the bears that live in their backyards by buying special garbage cans and food storage containers.
"You know we jut really hope that the public takes the message away that you know it's great to live in bear country and you know there are ways to do it that will keep both you and the bears safe," said Stutzman.
Officials tell us they hope to keep hosting events like this one to remind the public about important issues, including bear safety.