Three grizzlies killed by trains

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Three grizzly bears were killed by trains near Glacier National Park in the Marias Pass area recently.

According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, the grizzlies, an adult female and two yearlings, were grazing along the railroad tracks before it was light the morning of Thursday, June 6, in Glacier County, 2 miles east of Marias Pass, near Glacier National Park.

The sow, which weighed 232 pounds, was hit first at about 4:19 a.m. She had been captured in 2000 as part of a Glacier National Park research project.

The two yearling males, each weighing approximately 65 pounds, were later struck by a separate train near the same location.

Game and Fish personnel investigated the incidents. There were no attractants present that would have drawn the bears to the tracks,according to a press release from Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The state agency has worked with agencies and railroad companies over the years to minimize grizzly bear mortalities along travel routes. These preventative measures include reducing attractants.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was notified of the incidents.

Grizzlies have occasionally been hit on railroad tracks in Region 1. A cub was struck and killed by a train on the tracks near Columbia Falls Nov. 8, 2018.

According to Fish and Game, about 13 percent of the grizzly deaths between 1975 and 2018 were attributed to bears being struck by vehicles or trains.

In 2018, a record number of grizzly bear mortalities — 51 — were recorded throughout the ecosystem. The total included bears that were killed in various ways and bears that were relocated out of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

To date, state officials have confirmed 14 grizzlies have died in Region 1. Six were euthanized by the agency, five for livestock depredation and one for becoming habituated. Two were hit by automobiles.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. The NCDE is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE.

This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population, and notifying the public.

For information about grizzly bears, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/species/grizzlyBear/. 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 may be reached at 758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com.

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