Bears roaming lower-elevation areas seeking food sources before denning
Kalispell — Here is an update of recent management activities involving grizzly bears in northwest Montana.
Bears are very active right now as denning season approaches. Northwest Montana is home to abundant populations of grizzly bears and black bears.
Recent sightings have ranged across the region at lower elevations, including the Stillwater River drainage in and around Ray Kuhns Wildlife Management Area and the lower Flathead River. Bears are actively seeking food sources before winter, and residents are advised to clean up or secure food attractants, such as garbage, dog food, and livestock. Residents are advised to pick any domestic fruit from their property.
Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door. Recreationists are urged to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps and tips to prevent conflicts, such as traveling in groups and making noise.
Hunters should always remain vigilant and remember that moving slowly and quietly increases your chances of surprise encounters and game-calling mimics prey. Bear spray is an effective deterrent and everyone, especially hunters, is encouraged to carry it in the outdoors.
More safety information is available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website, fwp.mt.gov. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.
Yearling Grizzly Bears Captured Near Polebridge, Euthanized
On Sunday, Oct 21, 2018, Montana FWP staff captured two yearling grizzly bears north of Polebridge and euthanized the animals.
Landowners reported that the yearlings were ripping into a yurt, broke into a cooler, got into garbage, tried to get into bear-resistant garbage containers, and attempted to break into cars and trailers. The adult female was observed with the yearlings but mostly stayed in the background. The yearlings were very food-conditioned and habituated to human presence.
Attempts to haze the bears were unsuccessful.
Due to the bears’ food conditioning, FWP made the decision to euthanize the animals in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines. A food-conditioned animal actively seeks food rewards from humans, has lost its natural foraging behavior, may cause property damage, and can be dangerous.
The decision was made to leave the adult female in the wild and monitor her activity. The adult female is radio-collared as part of FWP’s population monitoring program. The male yearling weighed 213 pounds and the female yearling was 198 pounds.
Grizzly Bear Moved from Polebridge into Glacier National Park
On Oct 21, FWP captured a subadult male grizzly bear weighing 224 pounds just south of Polebridge. The bear had been in the area for at least one month feeding in a field of oats that was cut for oat hay.
Groups of people were frequently stopping to photograph the bear and it was becoming habituated, which creates a dangerous situation because the animal no longer fears or reacts to humans. The bear was spending more time close to the road and people were seen climbing the fence and going through the gate to get closer for photographs. Some people were observed within 20 feet of the bear.
FWP, in consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, decided to capture, radio collar, and translocate the bear into the interior of Glacier National Park at Packers Roost.
FWP staff will work with the absentee landowner to encourage them to not plant oats in that field in the future. In addition to the subadult male, the family group mentioned above was also observed in the oat field. FWP has also worked with residents in the Polebridge area to make sure food attractants are secured. FWP staff assisted in putting up electric fencing to keep bears from accessing oat hay that was being stored in an open barn. Electric fencing is an effective tool for protecting and securing livestock and other attractants.
Grizzly Bear Captured Near Whitefish, Moved to North Fork
On Oct. 8, FWP captured a male grizzly bear weighing 346 pounds near Whitefish. FWP was attempting to capture a sow with two cubs but incidentally captured the male grizzly bear off KM Ranch Road. FWP attached a GPS radio collar onto the animal and released the bear Oct. 9 up Coal Creek in the North Fork of the Flathead River area.