GREAT FALLS — Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks maintains a page on Facebook to keep people aware of recent grizzly bear sightings and incidents along and east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
The page is called the Prairie Bear Monitor , and FWP recently released information about bear incidents in 2019.
FWP says it responded to more than 374 calls for information or service regarding grizzly bears during 2019. About 37 of those calls were conflicts were some type of management action was required. The primary conflict type for the prairie area is grizzly bears coming too close to human homes, which happened 11 times (34% of conflict calls).
For instances of “bears near dwelling” there were no obvious unsecured attractants. In some cases where grizzlies were close to homes the bears were using shelterbelts as traveling cover or daybeds. In other situations, there were attractants but were unavailable for bears to obtain.
In an additional 11 calls grizzlies obtain unsecured attractants (seven grain spills, two trash, and two animal feed). All but one bear near dwelling conflicts were resolved with hazing. In one situation north of Conrad a young bear was near homes on three nights, despite hazing - the bear was relocated, and she never returned to residential areas.
Grizzly bears caused property loss in 18 conflict calls. FWP responded to livestock loss calls with USDA Wildlife Services.
On the Sun River in April, one subadult male grizzly killed three registered black angus calves and attacked another three, which required veterinary assistance (additional five were missing).
In May, a calf was killed by a grizzly bear and her cub on Dupuyer Creek (an additional calf and cow were killed nearby, but the investigators were not able to identify the responsible bear, and several bears were nearby).
In June, a single pig was killed by a grizzly on Cut Bank Creek. Most serious, at least 41 sheep were killed by a single grizzly bear over five nights (thus, five conflict calls) on the Marias River in July. There were an additional two calls about grizzly bears attempting depredation, but people were able to scare the bear off.
There were two human-grizzly bear encounters, where people met a grizzly while on foot. In one instance the bear did not detect the person. In the other, a barking dog scared the bear off.
Conflicts were concentrated (70%) along the Marias River watershed, which is comprised of several waterbodies including Dupuyer Creek, Birch Creek, Lake Frances, Dry Fork and various canals or coulees.
In 2019, FWP captured nine grizzly bears in several areas east of Highway 89 and Simms. Capture outcomes were determined through coordination with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and Interagency grizzly bear guidelines due to their federally protected status. The bears that were relocated or preemptively collared caused no additional complaints.
Five grizzlies were caught on Dupuyer creek in May, where they were concentrating around a boneyard.
Here is the breakdown:
- On May 1st, a subadult male was euthanized on the Sun River due to his involvement with three calf depredations and three calf attacks (additional five calves missing). USDA Wildlife Services capture.
- A non-conflict subadult male was captured on Dupuyer creek at the site of a calf depredation. It was released on-site with landowner permission (5/18/2019).
- A non-conflict adult female was captured on Dupuyer creek at the site of a calf depredation. It was relocated to the Blackleaf WMA (5/19/2019). USDA Wildlife Services capture.
- A non-conflict subadult male was captured on Dupuyer creek at the site of a calf depredation. It was relocated to the Blackleaf WMA (5/19/2019).
- A 23-year-old female was captured on Dupuyer creek due to calf depredation. She was relocated to the North Fork of the Flathead (5/20/2019). USDA Wildlife Services capture.
- A yearling male was captured on Dupuyer creek due to his involvement with a single calf depredation. He was relocated to the North Fork of the Flathead with his mother (5/19/2019).
- A yearling female was captured (bear in photograph) as a preemptive action because she was frequenting areas near residences north of Conrad (6/14/2019).
- An adult male was preemptively collared on Cut Bank Creek (7/11/2019).
- A subadult male was euthanized on the Marias river for killing 41 sheep (7/19/2019).