STEVENSVILLE – Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured a young male grizzly bear Saturday on the Whitetail Golf Course north of Stevensville along the Bitterroot River.
Over the past few weeks, the wildlife department received reports of a bear extensively digging and causing damage to the golf course.
Because the bear was staying in the area and damaging the property, wardens set a trap in response, expecting to capture a black bear.
Wildlife officials trapped the bear early Saturday morning and later confirmed it was instead a young 249-pound male grizzly.
The grizzly was relocated Sunday to the lower Blackfoot Valley, on the southern edge of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, in a spot previously identified as a good relocation area for bears.
FWP said in a press release that through the years, several grizzly bears have been confirmed in the Sapphire Mountains and in the northwest portion of the Bitterroot Valley, including the Lolo Creek drainage, and as far south as the Big Hole Valley.
Grizzly bears in the Bitterroot remain relatively uncommon, compared to other parts of northwest Montana, but there have been increasing reports in recent years.
Northwest Montana’s nearby Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem is the closest grizzly bear recovery zone with an established population of grizzlies.
“The NCDE is not far away, and grizzly bears are expanding in several directions from there, slowly recolonizing historic ranges,” said FWP Region 2 Bear Management Specialist James Jonkel.
This time of year, Jonkel added, it is common for bears to routinely follow drainages down into the rich valley bottoms, where food and water are more plentiful.
“Where the bear was captured along the river, foods like rosehip, snowberry and various forbs are attracting bears right now. Therefore, it’s extra important to contain things that are under our control, like garbage and fruit trees, so that bears keep on moving to their natural foods and aren’t tempted to stay in our neighborhoods,” he said.
-David Sherman reporting for MTN News