MISSOULA – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) euthanized a sub-adult male grizzly bear in the Blackfoot Valley on Sunday, May 12 immediately following repeated break-ins to a barn to access grain.
FWP bear management specialist, James Jonkel, said the bear was exhibiting food-conditioned behavior. Once bears become conditioned to attractants like grain it is hard to break those behavior patterns, and they often remain in the area, near homes and agricultural and livestock operations, becoming bolder and more aggressive in accessing food.
“In 2018, we had the highest bear conflict year on record in the Blackfoot,” Jonkel said. “Some of what we’re seeing now is young bears that were taught bad behavior last year, returning and looking for livestock feed and other attractants.”
Jonkel said that several unusual factors, including the 2017 fires and heavy snowpack, may have displaced some bears into valley areas more than usual. A good berry crop in the valleys last fall also contributed to more concentrated bear activity. Some of these bears found food near homes and livestock that prompted them to return this spring in search of more.
“It is important to keep bear attractants such as garbage, pet and livestock food and chickens, behind electric fences or inside a secure structure,” Jonkel said. “If bears are able to find these things easily, then they tend to stay in the area looking for more.”
FWP captured the grizzly early Sunday morning. FWP made the decision to euthanize it in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.