Bozeman, MT — A black bear was euthanized recently after multiple conflicts with residents in Big Sky.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was first notified of the 8- to 10-year-old, 185-pound female bear on Sept. 15 as it was reported wandering around Town Center in front of the Wilson Hotel. A Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputy said the bear almost entered the hotel through the automatic doors and that it showed no signs of fear toward humans.
Later that day, the bear was seen near residences on Curley Bear Road, where it gained access to unsecured garbage cans and opened garages.
On Sept. 17, the bear was seen sitting just outside the door of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, and it was undeterred until deputies fired rubber slugs at it. Later that day, FWP wardens learned that the bear stole a slice of pizza off a woman’s plate while she sat at an outdoor table near the Blue Moon Bakery.
On Sept. 18, deputies had to chase the bear away several times to keep it from coming into town. Two days later, the bear appeared at the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office again and left only after it was hit with rubber slugs.
A homeowner along Old Mountain Road notified FWP wardens on Sept. 22 that the bear had gotten into several bags of trash that were left out on a porch.
FWP biologists and wardens set traps and made repeated attempts to capture the bear as its presence was reported in the Big Sky community. Photos and descriptions from witnesses indicate the same bear was involved in each incident.
On Sept. 23, residents reported seeing the bear on Spruce Cone Drive near a school bus stop. The bear got into a garbage can there and dragged it up a hill. People walking their dogs in that area said the bear attempted to swat at the dogs as they walked by. One of the residents eventually used bear spray to scare away the bear.
FWP wardens captured the bear later that day.
FWP’s bear management policies guide the agency’s actions in dealing with captured bears. In this case, the bear was clearly habituated to receiving food rewards in urban and residential areas, showing no fear of humans. These behaviors pose unacceptable risks to public safety and property. Because of these factors, FWP euthanized this bear humanely.
“This bear was a textbook example of being habituated and conditioned to receiving food rewards from humans,” said FWP Warden Ben Gleason.
State statute prohibits people from intentionally feeding wildlife, and doing so is a citable offense. Big Sky zoning regulations also require that all refuse be stored in animal-proof containers or made unavailable to all domestic and wild animals. Bears habituated to unsecured food sources from humans can pose repeated threats to human safety and property throughout communities. Unfortunately, attractants and food rewards from humans are still the most common factor leading to black bear captures and removals.
“Residents in this area have made some progress toward reducing bear attractants. But there remains a lot of unprotected garbage, bird feeders and other potential food sources,” said Mark Deleray, FWP’s Regional Supervisor in Bozeman. “We need to keep these attractants out of reach if we want people to be safe and bears to remain wild and healthy. It is very disturbing to continually remove bears from this area.”
Residents can help eliminate the need to relocate or destroy bears by securing animal feed, garbage and other attractants. Bear-resistant garbage cans are available to residents in the Big Sky area by contacting their garbage disposal service provider. Some Big Sky residents have made strides in securing their garbage, in part, thanks to an initiative called Bear Smart Big Sky, an interagency effort aimed at reducing conflicts between bears and humans.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has also compiled resources for reducing conflicts with bears, both in the wild and in urban areas. To learn more, please visit IGBConline.org.