Wildlife Officials Euthanized Four Food-Conditioned Bears in June

Bears were frequenting residential properties and accessing unsecured garbage and chicken coops

By Micah Drew
A black bear on the Bison Range nature preserve on the Flathead Indian Reservation on May 20, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) bear management specialists have had a busty start to the summer responding to reports of human-bear conflicts across northwest Montana.

Over a one-week period in June, wildlife officials killed four bears found to be frequenting residential properties and accessing unsecured garbage and chicken coops.

On June 23, FWP officials captured and killed a female grizzly bear south of Libby. The 3.5 year-old bear had previously been captured in 2021 after killing chickens in Whitefish and had been relocated to the Puzzle Creek area near Marias pass.

Following a report from a homeowner in the Silver Butte area south of Libby, FWP staff captured the bear and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service relocated the bear, but within two days it traveled more than 10 miles back towards the original conflict site where it killed chickens, attempted to explore a residential porch and was sprayed with bear spray.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along in consultation with FWP and by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines, made the decision to euthanize the bear.

“This bear traveled from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. We want bears to travel between both ecosystems because it’s good for recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak and good for the long-term health of both populations, but these bears won’t be successful if they get into conflict with unsecured food attractants, like small livestock,” FWP bear management specialist Kim Annis said.

A day earlier, June 22, FWP staff captured and euthanized a 2-year-old male black bear near Swan Lake that had begun approaching residences and breaking into unattended buildings. The food-conditioned bear had previously been captured north of Columbia Falls after eating several chickens.

On June 27, FWP captured and killed a male grizzly bear near Lake Blaine north of Creston. The bear had originally been captured near Vaughn and relocated to the Marias Pass area this spring, but the bear traveled back across the Flathead Range, swam across Hungry Horse Reservoir and began frequenting residences along Lake Blaine, including accessing chicken coops and unsecured garbage.

Finally, FWP staff captured and euthanized a female black bear on June 29 that had been frequenting residences near Blanchard Lake near Whitefish. The bear, estimated to be around 6 years old, appeared to have health issues related to tumors in its mouth.

Officials are urging residents to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and birdseed. Chicken and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

Anyone recreating in bear country should be aware of their presence and follow precautionary steps and tips to prevent conflicts, such as carrying bear spray.

To report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP wildlife 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.

For more safety information, visit fwp.mt.gov.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.