Bears and Reefer Are On People’s Minds in Montana

As we drove up from Billings to Red Lodge, Montana, I asked our guide Joan about what people were talking about here in this small city of about 100,000. Two topics came up, which were familiar discussions people have been having in other states.

The city of Billings two years ago passed a law allowing the sale of medical marijuana, and now there appear to be thousands more patients for the drug then ever before.  A total of 27 marijuana dispensaries have opened up in the city, one of which is right next to a school. This is inspiring city officials to try and come up with ways to fence in the dispensaries, and to keep more from opening up. So far the number will stay at 27, but this has definitely become a can of worms that some people wish was never opened.

The other topic further south when we got to Red Lodge was bears.  There have been 21 bear break-ins so far this year in this small town of about 2000 people.  Bears get creative since there is a law requiring bear-proof dumpsters. So the animals break into homes. One woman made 100 cupcakes for a wedding, stored them in her garage, and came home to find a bear had gorged on them all .

In the restaurant where we had dinner tonight, the owners take used fryer oil and place it in a well secured 55-gallon drum outside. Despite being chained down and surrounded by rings of truck tires, a bear managed to pick up the giant can and guzzle his fill of fryer oil, leaving the ground wet and sticky. The owners had to bring in new gravel and steam clean the whole area.

On a scarier note, two people have died in bear attacks in Yellowstone, one involving a sow and calves. The old story about a bear and her cubs is true.  Grizzlies are much larger than the bears we often see in the east, in fact the mischievous bears in the stories above were black bears, smaller and less aggressive than the grizzlies.