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Grizzly Bear Update for Northwest Montana

Monday, November 28, 2011

Fish & Wildlife - Region 1

--Six Grizzly Bears Captured and Removed from the NCDE, other Management Actions
--Results of Today’s Monitoring Flight
--Another Grizzly Shot Near Libby

Management Actions and Removals in the NCDE:
Six grizzly bears were captured and removed from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) in two separate incidents over the past 10 days in northwest Montana. According to Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley, the grizzlies, two adult females and four cubs, were captured and removed due to repeated conflicts and in the interest of human safety. The two adult females were captured and euthanized, while managers will try to locate a zoo to take the four cubs.

Bear managers regret the necessity of removing the grizzlies, but note the recent management actions were required to responsibly address increasing bear/human conflicts. According to FWP’s Grizzly Bear Researcher, Rick Mace, who leads part of grizzly bear trend monitoring program, there are approximately 1,000 grizzly bears in the NCDE as of 2011, and the population continues to grow at about 2-3% per year. “Although the recent removals of adult females with cubs are regrettable,” says Mace, “these mortalities are well within sustainable mortality limits.”

FWP Region One Wildlife Program Manager Jim Williams adds that the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service concurred with removing the grizzlies. “We are entering a new era in grizzly bear management,” Williams says. “With a functionally recovered population of grizzly bears we will continue to experience increased conflicts between bears and humans. As the NCDE grizzly bear population continues to grow, FWP can be more aggressive with removing those females and males that continue to conflict with humans.”

Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley notes the following details on the field season and the latest removal of six grizzly bears: The 2011 field season resulted in a record 44 captures of grizzly bears for FWP bear conflict biologists in the NCDE portion of Region One. Since 1993, on average, FWP typically has 17 management captures of grizzly bears in the same area.

The 44 captures involved 28 individual grizzly bears, some of which were captured on multiple occasions. Of the 28 grizzly bears, 11 were removed from the population. This included 6 grizzly bears that were killed, a subadult male sent to the Grizzly Wolf Discovery Center, and 4 cubs of the year that may be placed in zoos. The other 17 grizzly bears are still in the wild and most of them are still radio-collared and being monitored.

Since November 16, two family groups of grizzly bears were captured east of Hwy 206 in the Elk Park Road area. The first family group was a 5-6 year-old unmarked female with two female cubs of the year. Attempts at capturing these bears spanned about two months while the bears broke into chicken coops, barns (to get horse feed), sheds, and garages, and killed pigs. These bears were captured on November 16 and 17 and the decision was made to remove the family group from the wild.

The second family group involved an 18-year-old female grizzly and her two cubs of the year, 1 male and 1 female. Biologists were very familiar with this adult female since she was first captured eleven years ago north of Lake Blaine. This female was captured and relocated a total of 9 times during those 11 years, including two previous captures in 2011. In the past, most of her conflicts were minor and involved feeding on apples next to houses. This fall, she began feeding on pig feed and ultimately ended up killing a pig. This family group was captured on November 21, and the decision was also made to remove this family group from the wild.

Both of the adult female grizzly bears were euthanized, and the four cubs are currently being held at the FWP Wildlife Center in Helena awaiting possible placement in zoos.

During 2011, almost a third of the 44 grizzly bear management captures involved bears killing chickens. Additional captures involved bears getting into livestock feed, pet food, bird seed, fruit trees, killing livestock, incidental captures, and for breaking into structures including barns, chicken coops, sheds, and garages.

A majority of the grizzly bear conflicts occurred on the east side of the Flathead Valley along the Swan Mountain front. Additional conflicts occurred around Coram, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Blankenship, Essex, Swan Lake, Yellow Bay, Star Meadows, Trego, and Eureka.


Today’s Monitoring Flight
Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley noted that he located 12 radio-collared grizzlies on today’s monitoring flight. Of the 12 grizzlies, six were in their dens. Three of the bears were on deer or elk carcasses or gut piles.

Grizzly Bear Shot North of Libby
FWP is investigating the case of a grizzly bear that was shot north of Libby. Warden Captain Lee Anderson notes that the case is under investigation and no further information can be released at this time.