Lolo Peak Fire Helped Turn Lolo Bears Into Garbage Hunters
The Lolo Peak fire in 2017 was enormous and some of the impacts can still be felt. According to Jamie Jonkle from Fish, Wildlife and Parks, some of the local wildlife has changed behavior after the blaze.
"We had a lot of evacuations in the Lolo area last year because of the fires and regular garbage pick-up did not really occur for almost two or three weeks," Jonkle said. "The bad thing is it happened right when all the bears were down along Lolo Creek feeding on choke cherry and hawthorn and then, sadly, they cast off on all of that garbage. Then this spring all of that that was still in their memory bank so they came back."
Jonkle says the bears returned to where they had found trash last fall, and found it again this spring, leading to a number of dangerous interactions.
"There are a few areas, Mill Creek specifically, where we have garbage being left out all week," Jonkle said. "It has been a little escalated this year because of the fire situation last year. We easily have 10 plus bears that are seeking garbage in the Lolo area."
Jonkle is worried the whole bear population in the area could get food conditioned if the public doesn’t start removing sources like bird feed, dog food and garbage that bears can get into. Jonkle says two traps are currently active to try to catch food conditioned bears in Lolo.