Two more food-conditioned bears have been captured and destroyed in the Heron area over the past week in response to what is believed to be illegal bear feeding.
The black bears that were killed by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks were a 125-poiund male and a 185-pound male.
That brings to seven the total number of black bears that had to be killed in the residential area near Heron, a community in Sanders County that is located on the Idaho border.
The other five bears — including a 485-pound male and 300-pound female — were dispatched two weeks ago.
“Based on reports and observations, a local resident allegedly fed bears, creating a public safety hazard,” a Fish, Wildlife and Parks press release states
Warden Captain Lee Anderson noted that Montana law prohibits feeding bears and other wildlife. He said wardens are working with the Sanders County Attorneys Office on potentially filing charges in the case.
The Sanders County Ledger contacted Barbara Sweeney, the woman suspected of feeding the bears, and she openly admitted doing so for the purpose of “teaching them to survive in the wild.”
She said she and her now-deceased husband operated an animal refuge on their property for the last 22 years. She said people would bring her orphan bears and she would teach the bears how to feed and flee from threats in the wild.
“I taught them to run from outfitters and pickups,” she said.
Sweeney said no one told her it was illegal to feed bears or other wild animals.
“People have known I’ve been doing this for years,” she told the Ledger. “If they would have said something, I would have stopped. I can’t get over they killed these animals.”
According to Jim Satterfield of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, “This is a very unfortunate example of how feeding bears directly leads to their death. This is why we tell the public that feeding a bear is the same as signing its death warrant.”