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Glacier Park

Aggressive Food-conditioned Grizzly Euthanized in Glacier National Park

Park officials urge visitors to protect bears and themselves by properly securing food and attractants and remaining bear aware

By Tristan Scott
In this 2018 image, a food-conditioned grizzly bear prompted camping restrictions in Glacier National Park. Courtesy National Park Service

Glacier National Park officials, in coordination with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, euthanized a food-conditioned, 5-year-old female grizzly bear on Thursday, July 20, in the Many Glacier area on the park’s east side.

“This action was taken after the bear received multiple food rewards from unsecured sources, causing it to exhibit increasingly aggressive behavior,” according to a press release the park issued Friday. “This behavior posed a threat to human safety making it necessary to remove it from the population.”

On Tuesday, June 27, the grizzly was reported moving through the Many Glacier Campground where she obtained unsecured human food from a campsite picnic table, according to park officials. Because the bear received a food reward, and in accordance with Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Plan, park staff restricted the Many Glacier Campground to hard-sided camping only. Staff hazed the grizzly out of the campground on two later occasions. The campground re-opened to all camper types on Monday, July 10, after radio tracking showed the bear was no longer in the immediate area for several days.

On Tuesday, July 18, the same bear appeared at the Swiftcurrent Lake Boat Launch where she aggressively charged a family picnicking on the shoreline, the release states. The family was able to secure food items; however, the bear successfully obtained beverages that were left cooling in the lake. The incident was immediately reported to park staff.

“Park officials made the decision in coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife to capture and remove the animal as per the park’s bear management plan,” the release states. “Park officials coordinated with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as required under the Endangered Species Act. On Thursday, July 20, the grizzly was euthanized near Lake Sherburne.”

Radio-collared in 2019 as part of a grizzly bear population trend study in which the park monitors up to 10 radio-collared female grizzly bears, the removal of the female bear marks the first food-conditioned grizzly bear to be euthanized in the park since 2009.

There are an estimated 300 grizzly bears in Glacier National Park. Numerous state and federal agencies work together to manage and recover the grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park.

Once a bear receives a human food reward, it can become food conditioned. Food rewards can include items such as human food, trash, livestock feed, and pet food. Over time, food conditioned bears may become bold or aggressive in their attempts to obtain human food, as was the case with this bear. Once a bear has become food-conditioned, hazing and aversive conditioning are unlikely to be successful in reversing this type of behavior. Food-conditioned bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns.

Park visitors can help ensure the future of grizzly bears by taking steps to prevent bears from becoming food conditioned. Do not stop along roadways in the vicinity of bears. Secure all food and garbage. Report all bear sightings to the nearest ranger. It may be cliché; however, more often than not, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

For more information about recreating in bear country, please visit http://www.nps.gov/glac/naturescience/bears.htm