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Grizzlies Making Urban Appearances

By Beacon Staff

Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley has been busy.

In the past two weeks Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks captured five grizzly bears in the north end of the Flathead Valley. On Aug. 25, two bears were captured near Lake Five, west of West Glacier, and on Aug. 29 and 30 three more were captured along the Middle Road east of Kalispell. In each instance the bears were in or near urban areas.

Manley said grizzly bears coming into the valley to feed on apples isn’t unheard of, but they usually wait until early October, after they’ve exhausted the huckleberry crop.

The first two bears – an adult female and yearling – were captured after they killed 60 chickens, most of them still chicks, on private property near Lake Five. Manley said the landowners had an electric fence, but it wasn’t enough and he helped put up another, stronger fence. But the following morning another 40 chickens were dead. Manley then set up traps and captured the bears. The two bears were then safely released on the east side of the Hungry Horse Reservoir, near the Great Bear Wilderness.

A few days later, another female grizzly bear and two yearlings were seen walking through backyards near the Middle Road, along Highway 206, south of Columbia Falls. Over the course of two different nights, the bears were captured and moved to the Sullivan Creek area, west of the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Manley said they chose to move the bears to reduce the chance of a dangerous human encounter.

“We don’t want anything bad to happen to anyone,” he said.

Manley recommended that people with apple trees pick the fruit as soon as it’s ripe to reduce the chance of attracting bears. He also said people should report repeat bear sightings, especially in urban areas.

“I don’t foresee any significant danger, but there is always that possibility,” he said. “Luckily most of the bears we’ve been dealing with have moved on when they come across people.”

According to research by the National Park Service, the grizzly bear population has risen by 3 percent since 2004 along the northern Continental Divide; data released earlier this year estimated 950 bears call the area home.

Two of them were Manley’s target late last week, as he headed to Coram to trap a pair of male grizzly bears making appearances near people’s homes.

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