Food-conditioned Grizzly Bears Euthanized in Northwest Montana

After their initial capture in Lincoln County, the sow grizzly and male cub traveled to the North Fork and broke into cabins, garages, outdoor freezers and a trailer

By Beacon Staff
Grizzly bears roam near Polebridge seeking food sources. Photo courtesy Fish Wildlife and Parks

Two food-conditioned grizzly bears were captured and euthanized after a spate of conflicts involving people and private property in the Fortine and North Fork areas in northwest Montana, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) officials.

The trouble began in early August when FWP received numerous reports of an adult female grizzly bear and a male cub getting into unsecured garbage in the Fortine area in Lincoln County. FWP bear specialists captured the bears and moved them to forestland near Frozen Lake and Tuchuck Mountain. The bears traveled to the North Fork of the Flathead and began seeking food sources by breaking into cabins, garages, outdoor freezers, and a trailer.

FWP staff responded and captured the adult female, estimated to be 6 years old, and the cub. Based on reports and video footage, the bears were severely food conditioned and habituated to people.

The decision was made to euthanize both animals on Sept. 20 in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.

“Food-conditioned and habituated bears are those that have sought and obtained unnatural foods, destroyed property, or displayed aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans,” according to a news release from FWP. “Once a bear has become food-conditioned, hazing and aversive conditioning are unlikely to be successful in reversing this type of behavior. Food-conditioned and habituated bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns.”

Officials urged members of the public to report bear conflicts immediately to FWP or a tribal wildlife management agency.

“Addressing conflicts promptly can help avoid bears from becoming severely food conditioned or habituated,” according to FWP.

In northwest Montana, bear managers are: Justine Vallieres, whose jurisdiction includes the northern portion of Flathead County and the Eureka area, and who can be reached at (406) 250-1265; Erik Wenum, whose jurisdiction includes the southern portion of Flathead County, and who can be reached at (406) 250-0062; Jennifer Wissmann, whose jurisdiction includes the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem and Sanders County, and who can be reached at (406) 291-1320. To reach the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Management Program, call (406) 275-2774. For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services at 1-866-4USDAWS

Learn more about bears at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.