KALISPELL – Montana’s spring black bear hunting season begins in less than two weeks. And with thousands of black bears in Montana and hundreds of protected grizzlies, it can sometimes be challenging to tell the difference.
That’s why hunters are required to pass a “black bear identification test” before purchasing a license.
“For hunters who want to participate in that season, they have to take an identification course online to make sure that they know the difference between Black bears and grizzly bears,” said FWP Region 1 Education Officer Dillon Tabish. “Because obviously we do not want anyone taking grizzly bears. They’re a protected species, and black bear, since we have an abundant population, are available to hunt. So we want to make sure hunters know the difference between those two.”
The test is free and can be taken online on FWP’s website.
Grizzly bears and black bears roam the mountains and valley floors of Montana from spring through late fall before denning in wintertime. Starting in mid-March, bears begin emerging and move to lower-elevation areas seeking food.
When it comes to identifying the difference between them, color and size can be misleading and should not be used as identifying features.
Some ways to spot the difference are their ears. Black bears have tall ears while grizzly bears have short rounded ears. Also, black bears have no prominent shoulder hump while grizzly bears have prominent shoulder hump.
For more ways to identify the difference between black bears and grizzly bears or to take the free test, visit FWP online.
A black bear, left. Grizzly bear, right.