Tag Archives: grizzly bears

Bear thoughts

Flannery Coats Bio PhotoNFPA President Flannery Coats has an excellent op-ed in the Hungry Horse News . . .

Most people who live up the North Fork call themselves “North Forkers.” You’ll know a North Forker when you meet one. At meetings outside of the North Fork, introductions usually go “my name is so and so and I’m a North Forker.” This is meant to imply a few things. For starters, an aptitude for self-sufficiency. For some of us, though, it’s more of an attitude with a willingness to learn. Another, the affliction of joy when things don’t go according to plan 80% of the time. In the shed that usually means a zip tie to the rescue while in the kitchen it’s more like what’s in the pantry is what’s on the menu. Being a North Forker also implies a code of living. Living with bears. Living with each other, although many will joke about which one makes a better neighbor. In true North Forker fashion, the place has a unique history of what living with bears looks like. At backcountry cabins you’ll see 2-foot long nails spiked through the heavy log doors, an old school ranger “bear proofing” their cache. Back in the ‘90s downtown Polebridge was full of Karelian bear dogs, the first of many special touches grizzly bear management specialist, Tim Manley, gave in his career with FWP. The years following he taught landowners to secure attractants and bear proof places like garages where food and garbage is stored until a town run is imperative. Thanks to those educational opportunities the North Fork is now a model of how people and bears can coexist given the right tools, although this fall would indicate that education is imperative after improper food and garbage storage by a few new landowners led to the death of four grizzlies.

This brings us to the recent announcement that the state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, opening up possible hunting opportunities in areas surrounding Glacier. As a former Glacier Park Ranger and seasoned local business owner, I have seen that the experience visitors want most is the chance to see a grizzly in the wild. Protected. Secondly, the grizzly bear population in Montana consists of two very separated “islands.” One in Yellowstone and one in Glacier and there is no evidence of intermingling yet which, in my opinion, is necessary to achieve “recovery” of a threatened species. According to USFWS, grizzly bears currently inhabit just 6% of their historic range. The North Fork is a decent chunk. To be a North Forker is to live with grizzlies while cutting firewood or fixing the snowblower, always remembering that the remote corner of the ecosystem spanning the Rocky Mountains you get to call home, too. As fellow North Forker Doug Chadwick says in his new book, “Four Fifths a Grizzly”: Do unto your ecosystems as you would have them do unto you. Up here, that means neighbors caroling on a full moon night. Happy Holidays to all!

Grizzly settles in south of I-90

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPHere’s another good story from the recent meeting of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear subcommittee. Of special note is that the bear managed, with considerable effort, to make it past Interstate 90, a substantial barrier to animal migration . . .

Slowly, but surely, grizzly bears continue to expand their range in Montana. Perhaps the most interesting find has been a male grizzly bear that moved south of Interstate 90 in the past year or so and now has a home range near Deer Lodge, outside of Butte.

The bear was radio-collared after getting into trouble with chickens, but has pretty much stayed out of trouble since, noted Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologist Cecily Costello at a meeting earlier this month of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem grizzly bear subcommittee. The bi-annual meeting brings bear managers and land management agencies to discuss all things grizzly.

According to radio-collared data, the grizzly made multiple attempts to cross Interstate 90. She said they believe the bear finally actually went under the highway, where a bridge goes over the Clark Fork River. That passage also allowed the grizzly to go under railroad tracks that parallel the highway as well.

Continue reading . . .

Tim Manley, trailblazing grizzly conflict specialist, to retire

Pioneering bear biologist Chuck Jonkel, left, with Tim Manley in 1994 near Essex - Montana FWPHere’s an excellent article about Tim Manley. Unlike several others this week, this one, by Tristan Scott of the Flathead Beacon, is not hiding behind a paywall . . .

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.

Continue reading . . .

Montana seeks grizzly delisting

Grizzly Bear - Montana FWP
Grizzly Bear – Montana FWP

Oh, cripes. He we go again. Montana Governor Greg Gianforte wants the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove the region’s grizzly bears from the endangered species list. Three articles are linked here, leading with one from Montana Free Press that seems the most complete . . .

Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office announced today that the state is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove Endangered Species Act protections for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, citing robust population counts and touting the state’s ability to independently manage Montana’s grizzly bears, which have been federally protected since 1975.

“We worked on grizzly bear recovery for decades. We were successful and switched to a focus on conflict management years ago,” FWP Director Hank Worsech said in a release about the petition, which seeks to remove federal protections for an estimated 1,100 grizzlies in western Montana. “We’ve shown the ability to manage bears, protect their habitat and population numbers. It’s time for us to have full authority for grizzly bears in Montana.”

Continue reading . . .

Also read:
    Montana Seeks to End Protections for Glacier-area Grizzlies
   Gianforte petitions for grizzly delisting

Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 - W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

Here’s the latest from Tim Manley on the tragic saga of Monica and her three cubs. It was posted to Facebook in the early morning hours of September 6th. Scroll to the end of this post for a photo gallery  . . .

Update on the grizzly bears… well, it was a difficult week. One that I would rather not repeat. I have read some of the comments and I understand everyone’s concerns and feelings. I think it is important to put a few things into context so everyone knows what transpired.

I am not going to mention names or locations but I think most people have heard about some of the locations where these incidents occurred. We tried to prevent further conflicts from occurring, but as you will see, this family group of bears were very food-conditioned and the property damage was extensive and knowing what they were going to do next was difficult to predict.

The adult female grizzly bear was known as Bear #418 or as we called her “Monica”. Based on the annual cementum of her premolar, her age was 20 years old. She was originally captured in 2004 as a sub-adult on the east side of the mountains at the site of a calf depredation. They didn’t know if she was the bear that killed the calf but the decision was made to relocate her to the west side of Glacier Park. She remained in the North Fork for 17 years and spent a majority of her time in Glacier Park, but denned in Hay Creek and on Cyclone.

Continue reading Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

Suit claims 2018 Forest Plan violates grizzly protection standards

Grizzly bear in early fall - Montana FWP
Grizzly bear in early fall – Montana FWP

This landed a little later than expected . . .

Four environmental groups filed suit in federal court Aug. 5 against the Forest Service, the Department of Interior and the Montana Logging Association challenging the 2018 Flathead National Forest plan.

The suit was not unexpected. The groups, WildEarth Guardians, Western Watersheds Project, Swan View Coalition, and Friends of the Wild Swan have maintained the that the Forest Plan, which was crafted over the course of several years, was, in essence, illegally handling the way the Forest would manage roads into the future.

At the heart of the case, the plaintiffs maintain, is the new plan disregards road closure standards that were set in the previous plan.

Read more . . .

Local environmental groups raise objections over bike paths in griz habitat

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. – Montana FWP

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Brian Peck are concerned that the Flathead Forest is not adequately evaluating the impact of establishing new trails . . .

Two local environmental groups have raised objections to a planned bike and pedestrian path network north of Columbia Falls in the lower Whitefish Range, claiming it could result in more conflicts with grizzly bears and displace other wildlife.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Many biologists, however, believe the population locally has recovered; while others disagree,

The Swan View Coalition, Friends of the Wild Swan and Columbia Falls resident and wildlife consultant Brian Peck are all claiming the Forest Service should take a cumulative approach and create an Environmental Impact Statement that encompasses several other projects that add trails to the Whitefish Range and areas near the Hungry Horse Reservoir.

Read more . . .

It’s grizzly moth-munching season again

Cutworm moths have arrived in the high country, along with the bears that eat them . . .

The dinner bell is ringing high in the Mission Mountains, and grizzly bears are heeding the call.

Every year in July, cutworm moths migrate from the plains toward the alpine highlands of the Mission Mountains, where the moths feed on late-blooming alpine wildflowers. Grizzly bears follow. The moths provide grizzlies with the highest source of protein available – even higher than feeding on deer.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have closed about 10,000 acres in the Mission Mountains Tribal Wilderness to let the grizzlies feed without human interruption.

Read more . . .

More than 150 apply for grizzly bear advisory panel

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Huh? How many?

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.

Read more . . .

It’s that time again: As bears awaken, the usual precautions are in order

Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 - by Diane Boyd
Grizzly bear near Trail Creek in North Fork Flathead region, Montana. April 11, 2017 – by Diane Boyd

Spring has sprung. The snow is melting. The birds are returning. The potholes are propagating. And the bears are coming out of hibernation . . .

They’re back.

Black bears tend to den at lower elevations than their grizzly cousins and have made appearances in the region on the cusp of April.

For example, black bears have been seen feeding on road-killed deer. Bear tracks also have been spotted on the road to Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park.

Both black bears and grizzlies will be actively seeking food in the days and weeks to come after months of hibernation.

Read more . . .