Grizzly Population On the Rise

By Beacon Staff

The number of grizzly bears in Northwest Montana is on the rise, according to the National Park Service.

John Waller, wildlife biologist for Glacier National Park, said data being collected in the area of the northern continental divide – approximately 7 million acres between Missoula and the Canadian border – shows the bear population has risen by 3 percent annually since 2004, when there were 765 grizzly bears. Today the number is estimated to be about 950.

“What it says is that our recovery efforts have been successful,” Waller said.

Waller said the park has been working with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to trap and track grizzlies in the area. Within the park, scientists will try to trap and track 10 female grizzly bears that are representative of the 300 bears that call the park home.

According to Kate Kendall, research scientist for the USGS, grizzly bear population rates rarely grow fast because female bears in this area often don’t have cubs until they are 5 years old and those cubs have a low survival rate. The steady population growth is encouraging.

“If the population is growing at 3 percent a year, that’s encouraging for the efforts made by state, federal and tribal agencies,” Kendall said.

Although the study has been ongoing for a couple of years, the park issued a press release last week warning visitors to stay clear of the trapping sites which are marked by brightly colored warning signs. Last year a man was killed by a bear when he entered a similar trapping site near Yellowstone National Park.