Future Smith River floaters in Montana may have to add a portable electric fence or bear-proof coolers to their list of gear after the state parks board on Wednesday (Oct. 15) approved a new food-storage rule for the popular permitted river, the Great Falls Tribune reported.

The measure will go out for public comment for 30 days before final action is taken.

Black bear raids at campsites along the 59-mile river corridor between the Big Belt and Little Belt mountains have jumped in the past couple years, prompting the move. Roger Semler, assistant administrator for the Parks Division, told the Montana State Parks and Recreation Board at its meeting at Pictograph Cave State Park in Billings that five black bears were removed from the river corridor two years ago and three were removed this year after conflicts with floaters.

“We spent all of last floating season educating floaters and warning them that this was coming,” Semler said.

He noted that the agency had considered installing permanent bear-proof containers or hoists at campsites along the river, but decided they would be too difficult to maintain. Instead, floaters would be checked at the Camp Baker launch to ensure they have a portable electric fence, bear-proof boxes or coolers to lock up their food.

“We would put the onus of compliance on the visitors to comply with this,” he said, but added that electric fences — costing about $200 apiece — may also be offered for sale at the launch for anyone who arrives unprepared.

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