Two grizzly bears are dead after wildlife managers captured the pair of young bruins near the north end of Whitefish Lake and removed the animals due to food conditioning, livestock depredation and property damage.
According to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials, the yearlings were accompanying an adult female grizzly bear who was also involved in the livestock depredations and property damage. FWP personnel captured the yearlings June 7 and held the bears onsite in culvert traps in an attempt to capture the adult female. The bears, each weighing approximately 120 pounds, were given food and water inside until the wildlife managers decided to euthanize them at a local veterinary clinic on June 12.
FWP removed the bears in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.
Efforts to capture the adult female near Whitefish Lake were unsuccessful.
Wildlife officials first captured the three grizzly bears last fall near Whitefish because they were killing chickens. They were moved to the North Fork Flathead River drainage. Within a week, they returned to the valley and killed additional chickens and caused extensive property damage along Whitefish Stage Road and then Farm to Market Road, according to officials.
FWP is monitoring increased grizzly and black bear activity across northwest Montana, including the Ferndale and Whitefish areas, and personnel are actively working to reduce conflicts in collaboration with landowners.
“The incidents demonstrate that wild animals can lose their natural foraging habits once they become food conditioned, and this poses a serious risk to public safety and the animal,” according to a press release from FWP. “When responding to a conflict involving bears, FWP follows guidelines associated with the incident that inform an appropriate action. These factors include the potential human safety threats, the intensity of the conflict and the bear’s history of conflicts.”
Residents are encouraged to report possible bear activity as soon as possible. To report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP bear management specialists at (406) 250-1265. To report black bear and mountain lion activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call (406) 250-0062). To report bear activity in the Cabinet-Yaak area, call (406) 291-1320.
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.
FWP 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.
So far in 2019, there have been 16 grizzly bear mortalities in the NCDE.