Be bear aware when recreating outdoors
Grizzly bears are out and about. In the last two weeks, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured four grizzly bears in western Montana that were causing conflicts.
Grizzlies can be found throughout western Montana, not just the Rocky Mountain Front, Bob
Marshall Wilderness and the Yellowstone Ecosystem. In recent years grizzly bear populations
have expanded and bears are showing up in places they’ve not been for decades.
After a long winter, humans and wildlife are active in the outdoors, and with the heavy snowpack still receding in much of the state, humans and wildlife are sharing the same space. Whether you’re heading outdoors to hunt turkey, black bear, shed antlers or mushrooms, please be bear aware.
Here are some general tips to stay safe in bear country:
- Inquire about recent bear activity in the area.
- Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray for emergencies.
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
- Travel in groups of three or more people whenever possible and plan to be out in the daylight hours.
- Stay on trails or rural roads.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Keep children close.
- Make your presence known by talking, singing, carrying a bell, or other means, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Don't approach a bear; respect their space and move off.
If you are camping in bear country, follow these guidelines:
- Camp away from trails and areas where you see grizzly signs.
- Keep a clean camp at all times. Keep tents and sleeping bags free of odors.
- Avoid cooking smelly foods.
- Hang all food, trash and other odorous items well away from camp and at least 10 feet above ground and 4 feet from any vertical support, or store in a bear-proof container. Livestock feed should be treated the same as human food.
- Don't sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking or eating.
Anglers also need to practice safe behavior in bear country:
- Don't leave fish entrails on shorelines of lakes and streams.
- Sink entrails in deep water.
- If you don't properly dispose of entrails you increase danger to yourself and to the next person to use the area.
When responding to a bear incident, FWP considers several factors including the potential human safety threats, the intensity of the conflict and the bear’s history of conflicts.
Male grizzly bear captured near McGregor Lake
FWP captured a subadult male grizzly bear on April 28 near McGregor Lake and released the animal in a remote location in the Kootenai National Forest.
The bear, approximately 3 years old and weighing 246 pounds, had been frequenting residential areas and eating bird seed and garbage around McGregor Lake and Little Bitterroot Lake near Marion. Residents reported several sightings of the bear. The animal did not have any prior conflicts.
FWP Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley set a culvert trap in the area and captured the animal on the night of April 28. The bear was fitted with a GPS radio collar for future monitoring. FWP Director Martha Williams assisted Manley and Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson with the immobilization and processing of the bear.
In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, FWP moved the bear on May 1 to the Big Creek drainage on the west side of Lake Koocanusa on the Rexford Ranger District.
Interestingly, the capture site was located between two grizzly bear recovery areas: the Northern Continental Divide and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems. The release area is remote habitat within the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, encompassing the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges in northwest Montana and northeast Idaho.
The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, encompassing Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and most of northwest Montana, is home to the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48 states, with an estimated 1,000 bears. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem is home to a much smaller grizzly population with an estimated 53 bears.
Caption: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Director Martha Williams, left, assists Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley, center, and Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson, right, with the immobilization and processing of the subadult grizzly bear that was moved from the McGregor Lake area. Photo by Dillon Tabish, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Grizzly depredations reported on Rocky Mountain Front
A pair of grizzly bear depredations recently on the Rocky Mountain Front have resulted in a female bear being trapped and relocated and a male grizzly trapped and euthanized.
The 220-pound, three-year-old female bear was captured April 26 west of Pendroy after several sheep were killed on a ranch. The bear was fitted with a radio collar and released near Rose Creek on the Sun River Wildlife Management Area west of Augusta.
On April 27, a 502-pound, four-year-old male was captured on a ranch west of Bynum near the Front foothills after a calf depredation.
Field evidence and physical measurements identified this unmarked male grizzly as responsible for three confirmed calf depredations over a four-week period. As a result, this bear was euthanized the same day and removed from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.
Grizzly bear relocated from Ovando-Helmville valley to Glacier National Park
Wildlife officials captured a young male grizzly bear incidentally on April 25 in the Ovando-Helmville Valley and later relocated it to Glacier National Park. The bear was captured in a trap that was set in response to a livestock depredation on cattle that occurred earlier in the week.
The four-year old male grizzly was not involved in the depredation, but because of its proximity to cattle during the calving season, in an area with a recent grizzly-caused livestock injury, the bear was relocated.
Deep snow conditions in the surrounding area made it difficult to find a suitable nearby relocation site, so the US Fish and Wildlife Service worked with Glacier National Park to find a low-elevation release site for the bear. The grizzly was relocated to the park on April 26.