Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks received numerous reports of an adult female grizzly bear and male cub getting into unsecured garbage in the Fortine area in Lincoln County in early August. FWP bear specialists captured the bears and moved them to forestland near Frozen Lake and Tuchuck Mountain. The bears traveled to the North Fork of the Flathead and began seeking food sources by breaking into cabins, garages, outdoor freezers, and a trailer.
FWP staff responded and captured the adult female, estimated to be six years old, and the cub. Based on reports and video footage, the bears were severely food conditioned and habituated to people. The decision was made to euthanize both animals on Sept. 20 in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.
Food-conditioned and habituated bears are those that have sought and obtained unnatural foods, destroyed property, or displayed aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans. Once a bear has become food-conditioned, hazing and aversive conditioning are unlikely to be successful in reversing this type of behavior. Food-conditioned and habituated bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns.
Please report bear conflicts immediately to FWP or your tribal wildlife management agency. Addressing conflicts promptly can help avoid bears from becoming severely food conditioned or habituated.
In northwest Montana, contact:
- North portion of Flathead County and Eureka area – Justine Vallieres, 406-250-1265
- South portion of Flathead County – Erik Wenum, 406-250-0062
- Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem and Sanders County – Jennifer Wissmann, 406-291-1320
- Flathead Indian Reservation – Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Management Program, 406-275-2774
- For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services at 1-866-4USDAWS
Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears. Bears are increasingly active and seeking food in the fall months before denning season. Bears typically enter their dens for the winter beginning in late November.
Tips in bear country
- Carry bear spray close at hand and know how to use it.
- Properly secure or remove food attractants, including fruit, livestock, livestock feed, garbage, and bird feeders.
- Travel in groups whenever possible and plan to be back to your vehicle in the daylight hours.
- Avoid carcass sites and concentrations of ravens and other scavengers.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Make noise, especially near streams or in thick forest where hearing and visibility is limited. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Never approach a bear.
- A properly constructed electrified fence is both safe for people, livestock and pets, and has proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock. For assistance or more information, contact your local FWP bear management specialist.
Learn more about bears at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.