Three grizzly bears were captured by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks Grizzly Bear Biologists and euthanized with the assistance of local veterinarians, according to FWP Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley. The bears had become food-conditioned and caused conflicts resulting in property damage and in one case, lots of dead chickens.
FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams called the situation unfortunate. “We typically learn from the bear’s behavior when it is time to remove them,” says Williams. “There is a threshold at which it is not safe to release a problem grizzly bear back into the wild. In all three of these cases the bears had progressed to breaking through structures near occupied residences and/or had a long previous history of conflict with humans. In each case, the problems started with human attractants.”
Grizzly Bear Number 1: A 3-year old, 140 pound, female grizzly bear was captured and euthanized on October 28 near Nyack east of West Glacier after the bear had caused property damage by breaking into a chicken coop to get chicken feed and attempting to get through a door on a porch to get dog food. Due to the property damage and history, the decision was made to remove the bear.
Grizzly Bear Number 2: Another grizzly was removed in the Glen Lake area near Eureka on October 30. This 375-pound, 6-year old male grizzly was also food-conditioned and had been killing chickens and breaking into structures. Due to the property damage and large number of chickens that were killed at several places, the decision was made to remove the bear.
Grizzly Bear Number 3: The third grizzly bear removed was a 7-year old, 525 pound male that was captured on the east side of the Flathead Valley near Mud Lake on November 2. This bear had caused extensive damage to a tack shed that was used to store horse grain. The landowner had made a good effort to “bear proof” his shed after a bear had tried getting into it 10 years ago. He had put up steel diamond mesh over a metal door and window. The bear put a hole through the wall and also pulled down the mesh over the door and pushed in the metal door. Due to the extensive property damage the decision was made to remove the bear.
Manley noted that overall, this season had been fairly quiet with regards to grizzly bear conflicts, until the month of October. In addition to these three bears, trapping for grizzly bears causing conflicts has also occurred in the Farm-to-Market, Blankenship, Columbia Falls, and Pinkham Creek areas. Most grizzly bears den during the month of November, and a telemetry flight conducted on October 19th showed 3 female grizzly bears at their dens.
“The best thing that residents living in bear country can do to prevent bear conflicts is to secure attractants such as garbage, pet food, and bird feeders so that bears don’t get food rewards and start looking around homes and buildings for food,” said Manley. “Chickens and other livestock can be protected with properly installed and maintained electric fencing.”
History, Grizzly Bear Number 1: This female was originally captured in the Coram area as a cub in 2010 and relocated into the North Fork along with the adult female and its sibling. In the spring of 2011, the family group returned to the Coram area and the yearling female and its male sibling were again captured and moved to the Spotted Bear drainage. The adult female eluded capture. They were both fitted with an eartag transmitter and monitored. In the spring of 2012, the young female was observed in the horse corrals at Spotted Bear before any Forest Service personnel were down there for the field season. She was captured and fitted with a radio collar because the battery in the eartag transmitter would be going dead and, being two years of age, was old enough to wear a radio collar. She spent most of the summer in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area, but during the fall, she returned to the Spotted Bear area and spent time around the guest ranches and Forest Service compound looking primarily for spilled horse grain. Forest Service personnel worked with the guest ranches on securing attractants and chasing her away if she was being seen around the buildings. She denned in the Bob Marshall Wilderness south of Spotted Bear and dropped her radio collar in June of 2013. On September 14, 2013, she was recaptured at the Spotted Bear compound after the report of a bear getting into coolers in the back of a pickup truck and climbing through the open window of another truck to get dog biscuits. There was also bear scat with grain in it. The decision was made to give her one more chance and move her into the Whale Creek drainage in the North Fork of the Flathead. The North Fork was chosen because most of the residents in the North Fork have secured bear attractants and there is very little chicken or horse grain in the North Fork. There were no reports of this bear causing any conflicts until she ended up at Nyack Flats.
History, Grizzly Bear Number 2: The male grizzly was originally captured in 2008 as part of a research project in the North Fork drainage of British Columbia. While he was collared in 2008, he spent all of his time in Southeast British Columbia. He was captured October 6th, 2013, near Glen Lake where the local game warden was trying to capture two young grizzly bears that had been seen getting on porches and were believed to have also killed chickens. The capture of this male was believed to have been incidental. He was fitted with a GPS radio-collared and released in the Whale Creek drainage of the North Fork of the Flathead. He returned to the Glen Lake area within a week. He was recaptured near Glen Lake after several chicken coops were broken into and over 30 chickens were killed. The GPS data from his radio collar also showed that he spent a lot of time around houses between Trego and Eureka once he returned to the Tobacco Valley.
History, Grizzly Bear Number 3: This bear was originally captured on the Rocky Mountain Front and was translocated to the Unawah drainage on the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir in 2010. He dropped his radio collar in Wheeler Creek in 2011.
(Report by Montana FWP; Photo: Cover photo: djcase.com)