State wildlife officials have captured a female grizzly bear south of Marias Pass and relocated the animal to the Cabinet Mountains to boost the grizzly population in northwestern Montana.
The 2- to 3-year-old bear was trapped by state Fish, Wildlife and Parks personnel in Puzzle Creek drainage and released near Spar Lake south of Troy on July 27.
Since 2005, eight bears have been moved to Cabinet Mountains to increase reproduction in a population that is estimated at about 50 bears, said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Wayne Kasworm of Libby.
Kasworm said two of the bears relocated during the past six years have died while two others returned to the area where they were captured in the Whitefish Range. One was back in the Whitefish Range in five days.
Kasworm said there have been sightings of bear cubs in a Cabinet Mountains home established by one bear relocated in 2005.
While it’s unclear how effective the second round of relocations has been, bears that were moved in the mid-1990s have played a major role in the Cabinet-Yaak population, he said.
“What we’re seeing now is second and third generations out of the bears that were placed there in ’94 and ’95,” Kasworm said, adding that more than 75 percent of genetic samples collected from the population can be traced to those bears.
This year, it’s possible a male bear will be transplanted into the Cabinets if a proper candidate can be found.
The program only uses young, backcountry bears with no history of conflicts or contacts with people, Kasworm said.
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