Food-conditioned grizzly put down; 3 others moved

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With bears on the move looking for food, officials with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks were busy with several incidents last week, including the euthanization of one food-conditioned bear.

The 2-year-old subadult male weighed 165 pounds. It was captured south of Condon on Sept. 1 on private property off Montana 83 near Barber Creek.

Officials said the bear was originally captured earlier this summer near Olney after it repeatedly ate garbage and unsecured duck feed at residences. FWP staff captured and moved the bear to a remote location on the east side of Hungry Horse Reservoir.

FWP recently received reports of the bear breaking into a shed to eat turkey feed. Efforts by the residents to haze the bear away from the property were unsuccessful. Wildlife personnel responded and determined that the bear was food conditioned and unafraid of people.

FWP made the decision to euthanize it on Sept. 2 in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.

Three other grizzlies were captured and moved within the region.

A subadult male grizzly bear was recently captured in northern Idaho and returned to the Cabinet Mountains in after it frequented a baiting site.

The 2.5-year-old grizzly bear was originally moved to the Cabinet Mountains in late July as part of an augmentation program aimed at saving the grizzly bear population and boosting genetic diversity in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem.

In recent weeks, the bear moved inside the Idaho border south of Cabinet Gorge Dam and was frequenting a bait site for black bears on private property. Black bear season is open in Idaho and baiting is allowed.

The grizzly bear did not have any conflicts and there was no indication that it was food conditioned or habituated to people.

Idaho Fish and Game captured the grizzly bear in early September and delivered it to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service personnel in Northwest Montana. The grizzly was released in a remote section of the upper South Fork of the Bull River.

Another grizzly that killed a calf was captured Sept. 1 by Blackfeet Nation Fish and Wildlife and moved to a remote area in upper Coal Creek of the North Fork of the Flathead River.

It was the first time the bear was captured. The bear was moved to a section of forestland in the North Fork currently closed due to the nearby wildfire.

A fourth bear, a 2-year-old female, was moved from the Salmon Lake area to a remote area near Marias Pass Sept. 4 after it caused traffic jams along Highway 83 because it eating discarded fish from anglers.

The bear was wearing a GPS radio collar and was originally captured near Eureka this summer after eating fruit trees near residences.

FWP said part of the reasons bears are moving into the valley floors are that the huckleberry crop appears to be downsized this fall while other berry crops are average but located in lower elevations.

Officials remind residents to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

Recreationists are also urged to take precautionary steps to prevent conflicts.

Also, Montana’s fall black bear hunting season is Sept. 1 to 14 for bowhunters and the general rifle season is Sept. 15 to Nov. 25. Hunters are required to pass a bear identification test before purchasing a black bear hunting license. Grizzly bears cannot be legally hunted in Montana. The free identification test is available online.

More safety information is available on the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website, fwp.mt.gov.

Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker can be reached at (406) 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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