With spring and the warmer weather, bears are beginning to emerge from their winter hibernation with a powerful appetite, and human garbage is a tasty treat for the hungry bruins.

Fish Wildlife and Parks Bear Specialist Jamie Jonkel said black bears will be visiting neighborhoods in the Rattlesnake area very, soon, but homeowners now have some extra protection available from Republic Services, a bear-proof garbage cart.

“These are only for the Rattlesnake residential area,” said Jonkel. “We’ve just had such high conflicts there over the years and that’s where we find the greatest density of black bears there in the north hills. These are some cans that they’ve been able to acquire from the Red Lodge area, where they just got some new cans. They’re being offered to Rattlesnake area residents for a lower cost than the new cans.”

Jonkel has some reminders for those who live in bear country about safety.

“If you have garbage or bird feeders or any kind of goodies out, you just raise the chances of some innocent bear down off the ridge line or from walking along the creek over to your yard,” he said. “Once they get a little nibble of some potato salad from a garbage can or a taste of some sunflower seeds on their lips from your bird feeder, that goes into their memory bank and then they start looking for those food sources, and that’s when the management issues escalate.”

City of Missoula ordinances prohibit storing garbage in ways that it can attract bears in the Bear Buffer Zone around the outskirts of the City to protect both bears and people.

Officials will be at the Rattlesnake Neighborhood Council meeting on Wednesday evening at 6:00 p.m. to sign people up to receive their  BearSaver carts. Republic has 200 carts available for this offer.

The meeting will be at the Missoula International School at 1100 Harrison Street.