Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) euthanized a male grizzly bear today, following a history of breaking into outbuildings and dumpsters and pursuing other attractants around homes and recreation areas, most recently in the Seeley Lake and Woodworth areas.
FWP bear management specialist, Jamie Jonkel, said the bear was exhibiting extreme food-conditioned behavior. Once bears become conditioned to attractants like garbage it is hard to break those behavior patterns, and they often remain in the area, near homes and places where people frequent, becoming bolder and more aggressive.
“If bears are able to find uncontained attractants like garbage, grain and even birdseed, then they tend to stay in the area looking for more and it is extremely hard to break that behavior pattern,” Jonkel said.
This sub-adult male grizzly bear was first captured on the on the Whitetail Golf Course in the Bitterroot Valley north of Stevensville last October, following several weeks of digging and causing damage to the golf course. FWP relocated the bear to a remote area in the lower Blackfoot Valley with hopes that it would stay away from populated areas and return to natural food sources.
This spring, however, the grizzly traveled to the Seeley Lake area where it found an uncontained garbage trailer. With the assistance of FWP and a community bear aware spokesman, the site was cleaned up. Still, the young bear continued to break into garages, trailers and outbuildings in search of grain, garbage and other food, and spent a lot of time near homes and recreation areas, including Placid Lake, Clearwater Junction and Ovando.
“All it takes is one person not containing attractants, to set bears up to become food conditioned. Unfortunately, we see this over-and-over again,” Jonkel said. “The best thing we can do for bears and the safety of people is to keep things that could attract bears securely locked up or electrified, and out of a bear’s reach and encourage your neighbors to do the same.”
FWP recommends keeping garbage in a bear resistant container or indoors and to make sure other attractants such as barbecue grills, compost piles, pet and livestock food, and chickens, are inside a secure structure or behind an electric fence.
FWP captured the bear Wednesday night. FWP made the decision to euthanize it in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.