Officials Euthanize Food-conditioned Grizzly, Injured Yearling

A sow and her three yearlings were eating seed, killing chickens north of Columbia Falls

By Tristan Scott

Wildlife officials captured and euthanized two grizzly bears earlier this week after a sow became food conditioned from accessing bird feeders, unsecured chicken feed, and other sources near residences north of Columbia Falls.

Bear specialists with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks captured the adult female grizzly bear and her three yearlings on private property off Witty Lane. Local residents had reported the bears were getting into bird feeders on porches, eating unsecured chicken feed and killing chickens, and had pushed open a barn door to access pig feed.

After talking with the local resident, FWP staff learned the group of bears had previously gotten into bird feeders and pig feed last fall, but the incidents were not reported.

In accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines and in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the adult female was euthanized due to food conditioning, which occurs when wildlife lose natural foraging habits.

Prior to capture, one of the yearlings appeared to be limping, and after further review at a local veterinarian clinic it was determined that the bear had a broken bone in its foot. After consultation with the USFWS, the female yearling was euthanized due to its injury.

FWP consulted with the USFWS and National Park Service and moved the other two female yearlings to the Logging Creek area in Glacier National Park, in hopes that they will remain out of harm’s way.

“It is important for homeowners to keep food attractants secured. Attractants include garbage, pet and livestock food, birdfeeders, and fruit trees, but also include livestock, gardens, and outdoor food cookers,” FWP officials stated in a press release.

The best way to secure an attractant is by storing it in a secure hard-sided building (a structure with four-sided walls, roof and door). IGBC certified bear-resistant containers are useful in preventing the bear from learning that an attractant could be a food source.

If containment inside a secure structure is not practical, properly installed and maintained electric fencing is a very effective tool. Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is also a simple yet effective short-term way to deter a bear. Other temporary and short-term deterrents include high decibel motion-activated alarms, sprinkler systems, motion lights and radios turned on at night.

Residents should report 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.

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