After three years in effect, wildlife managers in Missoula say a new garbage ordinance aimed at keeping bears away from the populated edges of town has been a success in the Rattlesnake Valley, but managers say the South Hills area has become a new hotspot for bear activity.
"The rattlesnake is very quiet compared to south hills right now,” said wildlife manager Jamie Jonkel.
Both areas fall into the city's "bear buffer zone” - an area on the outer edges of Missoula where residents are required by law to keep their garbage in bear resistant containers, or inside, when it's not garbage day.
"If folks are leaving their garbage out all week, uncontained, not keeping them in garbage proof containers, they can get tickets," said Jonkel.
Apple trees and other fruit trees are abundant in the South Hills area, and Jonkel says bears are also attracted to unpicked fruit.
"It's a learned behavior, and sadly, once those behaviors are learned, it increases the chances that a bear will not live very long once it starts developing those habits,” said Jonkel. “They get road killed, they're very vulnerable to hunting, and then sadly, management too. We get enough calls on a bear, we have to trap it."