FWP Bear Conflict Specialist assigned to Red Lodge

Kylie Kembel, 29, may be young, but her bear experience is solid. She has come to Red Lodge to help with bear conflict management, joining local biologist Shawn Stewart from FWP. Rather than setting off alarms, she wants to reassure people that grizzlies are not going to be a problem. “People should be aware that grizzly bears are using this ecosystem. They don’t need to stop hiking to avoid them. Being confident in knowing where you are and what’s around you is the key to being safe.”

Kembel has moved with her husband, Jake, from Kalispell, where she had a similar position focusing on the region including Glacier Park. She finds the areas difficult to compare since the Beartooths are much larger but the pattern of bear behavior and the solution for minimizing human interactions are the same.

“My main duty here is to help assisting the community and prevent conflicts. There is a need with expanding grizzly populations and livestock depredation. With the population we have currently out of the Yellowstone ecosystem, these problems won’t just go away. I want to proactively act in the community to help those newly experiencing bear conflicts. Conflicts can range from sightings-it depends on the perception of the individual to trashcans, pet food, grain livestock, bird feeders. I’ve seen bear resistant trash cans and they lock it every day . They forget one day and… “

Kembel noted that “Each situation is different and requires a different response.”

The goal is to make it “uncomfortable” for bears to be there. "We’re very close to their natural habitat so the potential to walk through yards is there."

Kembel has always had a keen interest with bears. “There is a uniqueness about bears. They are fascinating in all aspects.”

Originally from Oregon, Kembel graduated from Univ. of Montana, Missoula, in Wildlife Biology. For seven seasons she worked in bear and lion management in Kalispell. She shared a few incidents.

“One time, in my second year, I was still fairly new.. There had been several bear sightings.” My supervisor sent me to a small lake that had a lot of residents.” Apparently, the community was alarmed.

“In most cases, we arrive after the fact and don’t see anything. This time, however was different. “I left the residents and driving back to the office, there’s this small bear walking (strolling casually) down the road. I hazed him off a little bit.”

Another time, it was a lion. “This is personal. I was hunting east of Kalispell with my husband, for elk. We were calling a little bit, a cow call. Suddenly, the squirrels were going off-it started behind us and grew to all around us. Then we saw in an open meadow, a lion stalking (us, as) the “cow.” When he saw us, he sat there looking at us for a few minutes. He realized we weren’t elk and wandered off. Lions are very specific for deer. We’re not food,” she said calmly.

She advises for yard intruders, “bang pots and pans, let the dog bark, yelling-so long as it is from the inside.” In any situation she warns, “First and foremost, keep yourself sefe. Don’t run outside with pots and pans to chase the bear!”

Setting off your car alarm sometimes scares a bear. It depends upon the individual animal and the reason they’re there. "Keep food away especially during summer months when they’re active.”

For all the hummingbird lovers she advises keeping the feeders on some type of bear resistant stand, or hanging (like food when camping). Ideally, bird feeders in bear territory, should only be out from December through April. Lastly, there is always electric fencing, especially for honey producers and fruit trees. Instructions are on the FWP website. “When done properly, it does stop them.” For those whose fencing has failed she advises, to check it regularly, the lines can ground out. Also, make sure it’s installed with the right distance between live lines for the bear to be caught top and bottom. “They lead with the nose.”

FWP has just announced that it is not in favor of grizzly hunts at this time. She said, “It comes out of Helena. As there is increased ecological dispersing, we’re not pushing hunts. Bears can share habitat with both species (black bear and grizzlies). They don’t mind occupying the same areas if they’re not too close.”

As they leave Yellowstone National Park, some will continue to disperse, especially the sub-adults seeking new territories and some will pass right through.

When working for the FWP in Kalispell she assisted with bear management with Kevin Frye a bear management specialist. She recalls one incident of a farm being bothered by a bear getting a woman’s chickens. The chickens were on the outside with a secure barn in the woods. They worked with the homeowner to electrify the fencing at the barn’s door, put the chickens inside and set up cameras to monitor the behavior. There were no more visits.

For hikers she said, “Always be aware of the signs: scat, prints. Are there significant food sources?” Don’t spend a significant amount of time by those sources. “Find another place to be.”

If you are a fisherman she advises, “Make noises. Keep your bear spray handy. I’ts ok as long as your are cognizant of what’s around you. I talk to myself sometimes when fishing, sing or have a conversation with someone, play music.”

For dogs, she advises keeping them on a leash-not just for their safety. If loose, “it follows a noise, finds a bear and comes back to the person! Keep a close eye on your dog!”

She concludes, “I am excited to be in Red Lodge, a beautiful place, looking forward to exploring more.

“My goal,” said Kembel, “is to find the best way to live our lives knowing these bears are out there.”

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Upcoming Events

  • Tuesday, March 19, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Meets every Thursday, 7 p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Red Lodge Area Community Foundation, 122 S. Hauser. It is open to all. 425- 1755.
  • Thursday, March 21, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Clarks Fork Group meets at St. Joseph’s Catholic Hall, north end of Montana Avenue, Thursday at 7 p.m.
  • Friday, March 22, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Rock Creek Group meets Tuesdays and Saturdays at 8 a.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. at Calvary Church, 9 N Villard, Red Lodge.
  • Monday, March 25, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Joliet Group meets at the Community Center Monday at 7 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 26, 2019 - 7:00pm
    Now Group meets at the Bridger United Methodist Church, 222 W. Broadway (west entrance of church) Tuesday at 7 p.m.

The Carbon County News

Street Address:

11 N. Broadway, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 970, Red Lodge, MT 59068

Phone: 406-446-2222

Fax: 406-446-2225

Toll-Free: 800-735-8843

Open: Monday-Friday, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.