Grizzly bears euthanized after accessing food attractants

Kalispell — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks recently euthanized three grizzly bears in northwest Montana because the bears were food conditioned and habituated to people.

Montana is bear country, and residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage, bird feeders and pet food to help protect private property, ensure public safety, and prevent bears from becoming food conditioned, which occurs when wildlife gain unnatural food rewards and lose natural foraging behavior.

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.

Last week, FWP bear specialists captured a male grizzly bear in the Hungry Horse area near River Drive. The bear was previously captured a year ago off Conrad Drive near the Flathead River east of Kalispell after eating from chokecherry trees near residences. The bear was moved to the Spotted Bear River area, but within weeks it was reportedly eating from residential garbage cans in Columbia Falls. FWP attempted to capture the bear in late fall but it eventually denned in Glacier National Park. It returned to the Columbia Falls and Hungry Horse areas this spring and was once again accessing unsecured garbage near residential homes. The bears did not display aggressive behavior.

FWP consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and euthanized the bear, estimated to be three years old, on June 12.

In a separate incident, FWP captured two 3-year-old female grizzly bears in the Trego area after the bears appeared strongly habituated to people. Wildlife that become habituated are unnaturally comfortable around people and pose a risk to public safety. The bears were previously captured in May south of Ferndale after accessing food attractants near residential property. They were captured with a sibling, a young male, and moved to the North Fork of the Flathead drainage. The bears were reported in the Trego area but residences had successfully secured food attractants, so the bears were unable to gain food rewards and moved south to the Stryker area, where they accessed bird feeders and other food attractants. They returned to the Trego area where they were captured. The bears did not display aggressive behavior.

However, due to the bears being strongly habituated to people, FWP consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and euthanized the two bears, each estimated to be three years old, on June 13.

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.