Posted: Sep 26, 2012 3:12 PM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center
Updated: Oct 3, 2012 12:55 PM
KALISPELL- State wildlife officials have caught and euthanized five black bears near Heron over the past few days.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks describes the animals as being "food-conditioned black bears" that were put down "in response to what appears to be an illegal bear feeding issue," according to a news release.
Reports and observations show that a local resident allegedly fed bears, creating a public safety hazard. FWP set traps for the bears in the immediate area to address the hazard of food-conditioned bears roaming in a residential area.
"This is a very unfortunate situation," said FWP Warden Captain Lee Anderson. "These bears were extremely habituated and food conditioned, and they posed a danger to the people who live in the area. The public came to FWP concerned about these bears being fed and the potential danger to local residents."
Anderson noted feeding bears and other wildlife is against the law in Montana. He says the case is still being investigated and that FWP is working with the Sanders County Attorney to see whether or not charges will be brought in the case.
"The last thing we wanted to do is remove these bears," Anderson said. "But we had no choice because of the danger they pose to local residents."
He added that officials don't know how many bears have been food-conditioned at the site. Anderson said that two bears recently were taken by hunters in the general vicinity, and these may have been part of the group that was fed.
The five bears trapped by FWP were tranquilized, anesthetized, and then euthanized under the direction of the state wildlife veterinarian," according to the news release.
One male black bear weighed 485 pounds, and one female weighed nearly 300 pounds, which FWP says is unusually heavy for black bears.
Anderson said that the food sources for the bears have been removed but cautioned that other bears in the area may continue to associate people with food.
He said that FWP will continue to trap and watch the area over the next several days until it is judged that the food-conditioned bears have been removed and that the public safety issues are mitigated.
FWP Wildlife Manager Jim Williams emphasized the necessity of euthanizing the food-conditioned black bears, rather than releasing them to another location.
"As wildlife managers we have a responsibility to ensure public safety," said Williams. "It would be irresponsible to release these potentially dangerous bears somewhere else when the bears are in such a food-conditioned state."
Williams also noted that food conditioned black bears have a history of attacking humans, including an attack two weeks ago in the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Region One Supervisor Jim Satterfield says that state wildlife officials couldn't find a zoo that was willing to take black bears.
"This is a very unfortunate example of how feeding bears directly leads to their death," he said. "This is why we tell the public that feeding a bear is the same as signing its death warrant."