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Grizzly bears captured, moved to remote areas after accessing food attractants

Kalispell — Leading up to winter, bears are increasingly active and searching for food sources, and Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks is reminding the public to secure food attractants and “Be Bear Aware.”

Below is a summary of recent management actions involving grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which spans much of northwest Montana.

FWP has received numerous reports of bear activity across the region. Most of the reports involve bears seeking food attractants, such as domestic fruit trees, garbage, and other food sources near residences. To help with domestic fruit, FWP has established a Facebook page named Flathead Fruit Gleaning where residents can post about trees that need to be picked and others can express their interest in picking up fruit. The goal is to prevent bears from becoming food conditioned by accessing food sources near residences. A food-conditioned animal actively seeks unnatural food rewards, has lost its natural foraging behavior, and can be dangerous.

Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears that frequent higher and lower elevations, especially river corridors. Bear 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.

Homeowners should stay at least 100 yards away from wildlife and try to haze wildlife off their property with loud noises. Chickens and other livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door. Recreationists are urged to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps and tips to prevent conflicts, including carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it, and travel in groups while making noise.

Hunters are reminded to “Be Bear Aware” and properly store food and carcasses. Hunters should avoid hanging carcasses near houses or garages. Carcasses must be suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from any upright support. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear spray and know how to use it. More food storage and safety information are available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov.

Residents are encouraged to report bear activity as soon as possible. To report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP bear management specialists at (406) 250-1265. To report black bear and mountain lion activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call (406) 250-0062). To report bear activity in the Cabinet-Yaak area, call (406) 291-1320.

Summary of Recent FWP Regional Management Actions Involving Grizzly Bears

Sept. 11

FWP bear specialists captured a subadult male grizzly bear off East Edgewood Drive east of Whitefish after the bear killed a pig and fed on fruit trees near a private residence.

This was the first time this bear had been captured and involved in a reported conflict near residences. The bear was not observed acting aggressively. FWP moved it to a remote section of the Flathead National Forest off the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir after consulting with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Sept. 26

At 5:30 a.m., a vehicle driving on Montana Highway 40 east of Whitefish struck and killed a female grizzly bear cub of the year. An adult female grizzly bear and another cub of the year were reported seen but not involved the accident. FWP officials collected the carcass from the site.

Oct. 13

FWP bear specialists captured a subadult male grizzly bear north of U.S. Highway 2 on private property next to the Columbia Falls Aluminum Company property. FWP was attempting to capture a female grizzly bear with a yearling that was feeding from domestic fruit trees and garbage near residences but captured the male grizzly bear, which was also believed to be eating from garbage in the area. The bears were not observed to be acting aggressively. FWP moved the bear to a remote section of the Flathead National Forest up Dead Horse Creek in the North Fork of the Flathead River after consulting with the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Oct. 13

An FWP bear specialist captured an adult male grizzly bear west of Pendroy on the Rocky Mountain Front after the bear entered an open garage and fed on treated grain. Agricultural producers saw the bear in the garbage and reported it to FWP. The bear was not observed acting aggressively but remained in the garage. FWP captured the bear, which had been previously captured for research but did not have an FWP conflict record. The bear was relocated to the Puzzle Creek drainage of Flathead National Forest after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The producer is installing a garage door on one side of the garage and is considering bear deterrence options from FWP for the other entrance. FWP also provided the producer bear spray to carry in case of a surprise encounter, which are the most common cause of grizzly bear attacks.

Oct. 21

FWP bear specialists captured an adult female grizzly bear and male cub of the year on private property off Columbia Falls Stage Road near Columbia Falls. The bears were reportedly tipping over garbage cans at residences near the Flathead River south of town and eating domestic fruit that had fallen into residential yards. The bears were also pictured accessing unsecured garbage on a back porch of a residence. The adult female was previously captured for a research project and is 19 years old. It previously denned in Glacier National Park, and FWP moved the bears to the Logan Creek area in the park after consulting with the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.