Grizzly Bear Euthanized Near Libby After Feeding on Harvested Elk

Bruin that attacked Fish and Wildlife researcher in May 2018 had recently become habituated to human food

By Beacon Staff

Wildlife officials euthanized an adult male grizzly bear on Nov. 10 near Libby after it broke into a garage and fed on a harvested elk.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) captured the bear on private property along Farm to Market Road near Libby Creek approximately 3.5 miles south of Libby. FWP consulted with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and followed Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.

The bear was previously captured Oct. 11 south of Libby near Big Cherry Creek after attempting to break into a barn seeking food. This was the first known conflict involving the bear attempting to gain human-related food sources. When animals become food conditioned, they lose their natural foraging behavior. The decision was made to move the bear to a remote location near Poorman Creek in the Cabinet Mountains on Oct. 12. The bear was fitted with a tracking collar.

“FWP monitored the bear’s location and movements. Once it began frequenting residential areas again, I attempted to recapture the bear with the intent to euthanize it,” FWP Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Kim Annis said.

The bear was 25 years old and weighed roughly 550 pounds, an increase of approximately 100 pounds from the October capture to November.

The USFWS originally captured the bear for research in 2005. In May 2018, the bear was involved in a surprise attack involving a USFWS field assistant in the Poorman Creek Drainage. The victim sustained injuries after surprising the bear. During the attack, the victim deployed bear spray and the bear fled the area.

Because the attack was considered a surprise defensive encounter, wildlife officials did not take action against the bear.

The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, one of six designated recovery zones for grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is located in northwest Montana and northeast Idaho. The recovery zone includes portions of the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle, and Lolo National Forests (including one wilderness area). The Kootenai River bisects the ecosystem, with the Cabinet Mountains to the south and the Yaak River drainage to the north.

The current population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak is estimated at 50-60 individuals with approximately half of these in the Cabinet Mountains and half in the Yaak River area.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, east of the Cabinet-Yaak 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 healthy grizzly bear populations in the recovery zones. This includes tracking known mortalities, responding to management issues, and notifying the public.

Residents are encouraged to report bear activity as soon as possible. To report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP wildlife management specialists at (406) 250-1265. To report black bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call (406) 250-0062. To report bear activity in the Cabinet-Yaak area, call (406) 291-1320.

Residents are encouraged to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door. Recreationists are urged to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps and tips to prevent conflicts, such as carrying bear spray.