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Grizzly research, conflict reduction will continue while legal fights continue

Posted: 7:27 PM, May 01, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-02 13:31:35-04

KALISPELL – With the question of protecting Yellowstone National Park grizzlies still in legal limbo, “on the ground” wildlife managers say they’ll just continue bear research, and preventing conflicts along the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE).

This week’s meeting of the subcommittee charged with managing bears on the Northern Divide in Kalispell has been focused on continued bear management, not the possibility the bears could lose federal protection in the future.

Until the lawsuits over de-listing for the Yellowstone bears are resolved that’s not likely to change.

“But that doesn’t mean that the work we’re doing right now to reduce conflicts and to take into consideration expanding grizzly bear populations isn’t a live conversation for us,” said Randy Arnold with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

“The recent establishment, or setting up of the Governor’s Advisory Council on Grizzly bears is an effort to have that conversation more broadly about what would the State of Montana and Montanans have us do about grizzly bear expansion outside the recovery areas,” he added.

That’s going to be at the heart of the effort by FWP and the other agencies again this summer.

With bears wandering far out onto the prairie east of the Rocky Mountain Front — and showing up more frequently in communities on the west side of the Divide, and even into the Bitterroot — biologists say efforts will continue to make people more “bear aware”, to try and limit conflicts.

“So the monitoring occurs both with collaring efforts — where we have individual bears that have radio collars that we can track their movements. But also monitoring is with sightings, and confirming sightings,” Arnold told MTN News.

“And anytime we have any conflicts we monitor and keep track of those conflicts and the type of conflict and where they’re occurring,” he concluded.

That conflict now includes enhanced efforts to try and limit collisions involving grizzlies and vehicles after 17 bears were killed on local highways last year.