KALISPELL- Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) has been busy responding to reports of bears accessing unsecured food attractants on residential properties across Northwest Montana.
The conflicts commonly involve unsecured garbage and chicken coops and FWP reports staff have also seen an uptick in conflicts involving bears going onto residential porches where outdoor freezers or refrigerators are stored.
FWP recommends freezers and refrigerators to be stored inside garages, sheds, or other secured buildings to avoid attracting a bear.
FWP staff captured and euthanized a female grizzly bear south of Libby in the Silver Butte area on June 23. The bear, estimated to be 3.5 years old, was first captured in the summer of 2021 after killing unsecured chickens in Whitefish and relocated to the Puzzle Creek area near Marias Pass.
FWP received a report from a homeowner in the Silver Butte area that their chickens had been killed. Staff responded and captured the female grizzly bear at the property. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) staff relocated the bear.
But according to FWP, within two days, the bear traveled more than 10 miles to a residence near the original conflict site where it killed chickens, attempted to explore the home’s porch, and was sprayed with bear spray.
The bear also returned to the original site, where it continued to show interest in the chicken coop, which was now secured. The decision was then made to euthanize the bear in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.
“This bear traveled from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. We want bears to travel between both ecosystems because it’s good for recovery in the Cabinet-Yaak and good for the long-term health of both populations,” said FWP bear management specialist Kim Annis. “But these bears won’t be successful if they get into conflict with unsecured food attractants, like small livestock.”
FWP also reports that on June 22 a black bear was captured and euthanized a male black bear near Swan Lake. The bear, estimated to be two years old, was previously captured north of Columbia Falls after eating chickens on residential property.
The bear was moved into a remote section of the forest but began approaching residences and breaking into unattended buildings, including a home. The bear was food conditioned and habituated to people.
State wildlife officials also captured and euthanized a male grizzly bear near Lake Blaine north of Creston on June 27. The bear was originally captured near Vaughn and moved to the Marias Pass area earlier this spring.
According to FWP, the bear, a yearling, traveled across the Flathead Range, swam across Hungry Horse Reservoir and began frequenting residential properties along Lake Blaine, accessing garbage and chicken coops. Due to its food conditioning, FWP euthanized the bear in consultation with the USFWS.
Finally, on June 29, FWP captured and euthanized a female black bear that was frequenting residential properties off Blanchard Lake near Whitefish. The bear, estimated to be six years old, appeared to have health issues related to tumors in its mouth and was getting into residential garbage cans.
FWP notes Montana is bear country and preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.
- Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.
- Remove or secure food attractants. Bear-resistant containers and a properly constructed electrified fence are proven effective at deterring bears.
- Don’t let bears linger in your yard or in close proximity to home or other structures because this can lead to habituation. Call an FWP specialist to help deter bears if you are not comfortable or able to do so.
- Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is an effective way to deter a bear on private property.
- Notify your neighbors if you do observe a bear in the area to help make others aware.
- Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
- Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never approach a bear.
If you see a bear near your residence or need to report a conflict, please call your local bear specialist. More info at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/contact.