Bear managers across the state relayed plenty of grizzly bear stories during the Northern Continental Divide Grizzly Bear Ecosystem Subcommittee meeting earlier this month.
Region 2 bear specialist Jamie Jonkel spoke briefly about the fatality this summer of a bicyclist who was camping in Ovando and was killed by a grizzly bear that came into town.
Leah Davis Lokan, 65, of Chico, California, was killed when a bear attacked her in her tent . . .
When renowned grizzly bear biologist Tim Manley began his role as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ (FWP) Grizzly Bear Management Specialist for Northwest Montana, a position he’s held since 1993, the work was funded by BNSF Railway, which faced legal mandates requiring the company to mitigate grizzly bear mortality due to its railroad operations in the region — grain spills, for example, were a lethal temptation for grizzlies browsing food sources along the Middle Fork Flathead River corridor.
Today, the human-wildlife interface is so expansive that points of conflict emerge much closer to home — quite literally in our backyards — but they’re more often the result of bird feeders, barbecue residue, chicken coops, garbage cans, and other unsecured attractants than industrial mishaps such as train derailments.
After a celebrated 37-year career with FWP, Manley recently announced his plan to retire, but it’s not for a lack of grizzly bear work to keep him busy. In fact, it’s quite the opposite, with more bears and people roaming the same landscape than ever before.
The Flathead Beacon has a good article by Tristan Scott discussing the loss of Monica and her three cubs, as well as the general North Fork community issues surrounding living with wildlife . . .
Twenty years ago, new arrivals to the remote North Fork Flathead River community of Polebridge were likely to hear some version of the following when asking for directions — just head north and hang a right at the pile of bear scat.
Situated on the doorstep of Glacier National Park, which merges with the Bob Marshall Wilderness to create the largest intact natural ecosystem in the Northern Rockies, the North Fork’s resident grizzly bear population has historically outnumbered its year-round residents, as evidenced by the prominent distribution of scatological droppings along the area’s trails and roadways. Still, the human interlopers who do call this wild chunk of country home have, more or less, learned how to coexist with their mammalian neighbors, reaching an accord that just comes with the territory in bear country.
And yet in recent years, due in part to the increased visitation at Glacier National Park, whose western boundary is defined by the North Fork Flathead River, as well as the expansion of commercial services in and around the community of Polebridge — leading to the development of “work camps” to house a growing number of seasonal workers — human-wildlife conflicts have been on the rise.
There is quite a bit of interest in Governor Bullock’s grizzly bear advisory panel . . .
More than 150 people have applied to sit on an advisory committee to come up with recommendations on how to manage Montana’s grizzly bears.
Randy Arnold, a regional supervisor with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, tells The Missoulian the application process has been “flooded,” and the committee will probably consist of fewer than 20 people.
Gov. Steve Bullock announced in March he would appoint the committee, a move that came shortly after a judge restored federal protections for grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Bears from Yellowstone and in northwestern Montana have been spreading into new areas, triggering conflicts with ranchers, hunters and others.
Montana’s grizzly bears are not just wandering out onto the high plains east of the Divide, they are also showing up in neighboring states to the west . . .
As Montana grizzly bears have pushed beyond their usual mountain strongholds into the Bitterroot and Judith Basin areas, Washington state residents got a surprise visit this fall from a 476-pound grizzly west of the Pend Oreille River.
“That was an eye-opener for the state of Washington,” said Wayne Kasworm, U.S. Fish and Wildlife grizzly manager in Libby. “It was an unusual movement, like the bear in Stevensville and the bears showing up east of the Rocky Mountain Front. That was well outside of its expected range.”
The fall update of the Cabinet-Yaak/Selkirk grizzly activity released on Friday raised another new grizzly issue. A two-year-old male grizzly that was transplanted in the Cabinet Mountains last July got spotted prowling around a black-bear bait site in the Idaho Panhandle. FWS officials captured it and released it back in Montana around the south fork of the Bull River, but it returned to the bait site in September and now is believed to be crisscrossing the border near Huron.
This year’s “a fed bear is a dead bear” lesson: Those grizzlies attracted to the Polebridge area by the oats in the hay field south of town eventually forced management action by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Two are dead; one was relocated to Glacier Park . . .
It’s an active season for bears as they prepare to den for winter. Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say they’ve euthanized two yearlings that had become habituated to humans, and captured two others.
From the FWP press release:
Yearling Grizzly Bears Captured Near Polebridge, Euthanized
On Sunday, Oct 21, 2018, Montana FWP staff captured two yearling grizzly bears north of Polebridge and euthanized the animals.
Landowners reported that the yearlings were ripping into a yurt, broke into a cooler, got into garbage, tried to get into bear-resistant garbage containers, and attempted to break into cars and trailers. The adult female was observed with the yearlings but mostly stayed in the background. The yearlings were very food-conditioned and habituated to human presence.
Attempts to haze the bears were unsuccessful.
Here’s a pretty good summary of Montana’s proposed management plan for grizzly bears in the northwest section of the state . . .
Wildlife officials endorsed a plan Thursday to keep northwestern Montana’s grizzly population at roughly 1,000 bears as the state seeks to bolster its case that lifting federal protections will not lead to the bruins’ demise.
The proposal adopted on a preliminary vote by Fish, Wildlife and Parks commissioners sets a target of at least 800 grizzlies across a 16,000-square mile (42,000-square kilometer) expanse just south of the U.S.-Canada border.
However, officials pledged to manage for a higher number, about 1,000 bears, to give the population a protective buffer, said Dillon Tabish with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
Removal of Yellowstone area grizzlies from the Endangered Species List is by no means a done deal . . .
Federal officials are delaying their decision on whether to lift protections for more than 700 grizzly bears in and around Yellowstone National Park and allow hunting, amid opposition from dozens of American Indian tribes and conservation groups.
Officials had planned to finalize the proposal to turn jurisdiction on grizzlies over to state officials in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming by the end of 2016.
But U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Assistant Regional Director Michael Thabault said it could take the agency another six months to finish reviewing 650,000 public comments that have poured in on the proposal.
Representatives of several tribes held a gathering in Glacier Park to speak out in favor of retaining grizzly bear protections . . .
As federal wildlife managers prepare to move grizzly bears off the Endangered Species List in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, opposition to delisting the iconic — and to many, sacred — animal has continued.
Led by several tribal nations, a crowd of roughly 100 people met at the eastern gateway of Glacier National Park on Friday for a “Prayer for the Great Bear” ceremony.
David Bearshield of the Cheyenne Nation sang a prayer in his native language with the shore of St. Mary’s Lake as the backdrop.
From the Flathead Beacon . . .
Led by spiritual leaders of the Blackfoot Confederacy, tribal leaders from across North America will gather at Rising Sun in Glacier National Park on Friday, Aug. 12 to hold a prayer ceremony for the grizzly bear, which is considered sacred by tribes across the continent. The event will begin at 2 p.m.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed removing federal protections under the Endangered Species Act for grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone region.
Through a limited drawing, hunters could have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to kill a grizzly bear in Montana during a spring and fall season if the animal is delisted.
Tribal governments have expressed opposition on the basis of sovereignty, treaty, spiritual, and religious freedom violations.