AUGUSTA - A grizzly bear recently wandered through the town of Augusta, sparking concern for some residents — but the bear did not get involved in any conflicts during its visit.
“I wouldn’t say it’s rare for bears to be in the Augusta area. It’s a little uncommon for one to walk through the middle of town,” said Chad White with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP).
“It’s not too big of a surprise that more bears are showing up but we just want to be as communicative with the public as we can be,” White said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if more grizzly bears are spotted moving eastward along the eastern prairie corridors. We certainly don’t know how far east they are now.”
One was also recently spotted in the North Moccasin mountains outside of Lewistown, the first confirmation of one in that area in recent years.
Although these bears didn’t come into contact or conflict with people, FWP still wants to remind people of bear safety in case of another sighting where a bear shouldn’t be or if someone happens to run into a bear while outside.
“The message we always try to relay to people is basically anywhere in western or central Montana, possibility is there to run into a grizzly bear. So, you know, those basic tips about traveling in groups and making noise and carrying bear spray. That kind of universally applies now most of the year except in the middle of winter,” Hagengruber said.
Bear tracks and hair samples collected in the North Moccasin Mountains near Lewistown confirm the presence of a grizzly bear in the area, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks officials said in a news release on Tuesday, May 3.
The tracks from the west side of the mountain range were reported to FWP on April 29. An FWP grizzly bear management specialist visited the location on Saturday, April 30, and confirmed the 6 ¼-inch-wide tracks were made by a grizzly bear.
“Having a grizzly bear in this area is not surprising after what we’ve seen the last few years in terms of bears moving further east into central Montana,” said Gary Bertellotti, FWP regional supervisor.
After tracks confirmed the species of the bear, FWP spoke with neighboring property owners to notify them of the bear’s presence, identify any potential conflicts, and search for additional grizzly sign.
Hair collected from a barbed wire fence along a riparian area nearby was also identified as belonging to a grizzly. Bear management specialists also worked with area landowners to identify and secure potential human-related food sources, install trail cameras on likely travel routes and food sources, and discuss safety for farming and ranching in the area. Bear spray was given to all landowners contacted by FWP.
This is the first confirmation of a grizzly in the North Moccasin Mountains in recent years. Last spring a grizzly bear was confirmed to have killed cattle in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown. That bear was later trapped and euthanized.
A trail camera photo of a grizzly bear was reported to have been taken in the same mountain range in early April, although FWP was not able to identify the owner of the photograph to investigate the report. In more and more of central Montana, area residents may consider such precautions as carrying bear spray while working and recreating and practicing conflict prevention techniques such as removing livestock carcasses and open grain sources and installing electric fencing around potential attractants.
For more information on living, working and recreating in Montana’s bear country, visit the FWP Bear Aware website.