FWP Announces Record Year for Grizzly Relocations

By Beacon Staff

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks announced Monday it has captured a record 44 grizzly bears this year in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) section of Region 1. Since 1993, FWP has averaged roughly 17 grizzly captures annually in the same area.

The 44 captures involved 28 individual grizzly bears, some of which were caught on multiple occasions, FWP said. Six grizzlies were euthanized after being deemed unsafe to relocate. A subadult male was transported to the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center near Yellowstone, and FWP is trying to place four cubs in zoos. FWP is monitoring the remaining relocated grizzlies by radio collars.

“We are entering a new era in grizzly bear management,” Region 1 Wildlife Program Manager Jim Williams said in a press release. “With a functionally recovered population of grizzly bears, we will continue to experience increased conflicts between bears and humans. As the NCDE grizzly bear population continues to grow, FWP can be more aggressive with removing those females and males that continue to conflict with humans.”

In the last 10 days, six grizzlies were captured and removed in Northwest Montana in two separate incidents.

Two adult females and four cubs were captured after repeated conflicts and in the interest of human safety, according to FWP Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley.

The two adult females were euthanized and managers are trying to locate a zoo that will take the four cubs.

Managers said they regret the necessity of removing the grizzlies, but note the recent management actions were required as a way to address increasing bear and human conflicts.

According to FWP’s Grizzly Bear Researcher, Rick Mace, who leads part of grizzly bear trend monitoring program, there are approximately 1,000 grizzly bears in the NCDE as of 2011, and the population continues to grow by roughly 2-3 percent per year.

“Although the recent removals of adult females with cubs are regrettable,” Mace said, “these mortalities are well within sustainable mortality limits.”

During 2011, almost a third of the 44 grizzly bear management captures involved bears killing chickens. Additional captures involved bears getting into livestock feed, pet food, bird seed, fruit trees, killing livestock, incidental captures, and for breaking into structures including barns, chicken coops, sheds, and garages.

A majority of the grizzly bear conflicts occurred on the east side of the Flathead Valley along the Swan Mountain front. Additional conflicts occurred around Coram, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Blankenship, Essex, Swan Lake, Yellow Bay, Star Meadows, Trego, and Eureka.