Posted: Oct 31, 2012 9:17 AM by Dax VanFossen - KAJ News
Updated: Oct 31, 2012 8:53 AM
KALISPELL- You hear stories about bear encounters in Western Montana all the time.
However once a bear is reported as a problem, who takes care of the problem, protects the public, and also protects the bear? Dax VanFossen recently went on Special Assignment to spend time with one bear manager for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Bear managers deal with grizzly and black bear issues in the Flathead Valley on a daily basis. They get involved when a bear becomes a problem, but bear manager Erik Wenum says that the general public are the real bear managers, and are responsible for whether or not a grizzly or a black bear, makes it in the population.
Wenum, who spends just about every day trying to make sure people and bears have limited interaction, says the Flathead is growing, which means more people, living closer to bears.
"As that urban interface, where back yards but up into prime bear habitat [grows], we are expanding the urban interface continually, he explained.
Wenum also pointed out that there are also more bears making the rounds on Northwest Montana.
"Our bear population as a whole is continuing, both black and grizzly bears, is continuing to grow. Grizzly bears are growing at around 3% per year, and so we're gonna wind up with more bears in the valley floor, simply because we have more bears."
There have been several human bear encounters in 2012, and both Wenum and his counterpart, Tim Manley, spend a great deal of time relocating black and grizzly bears from problem situations.
But certain issues have come to the forefront this year.
"The black bear attack at Black Bear Creek in the Bob Marshall. The grizzly bear that was recently shot by the hunter, shot in the face, and then the Heron feeding incident, which is still ongoing," Wenum said.
That Heron incident involved a man who habitually fed black bears for several years near his home, eventually leading to seven bears having to be euthanized.
But Wenum says common sense mistakes are also to blame.
"You know, the biggest attractants that we deal with, are trash, bird feeders, pet foods and livestock feeds."
Wennum says those simple reminders, will not only prevent damage to your property or animals, but it will help keep bears alive, and more importantly, away from you.
We spoke to a Fairmont-Egan resident who recently had a problem with a 400 pound black bear and she told us she was very impressed with the response by Wenum and FWP in trapping and relocating her furry friend.