Boy, howdy is this true! An interesting article from the Missoula Current . . .
The worldwide pandemic has brought Montana’s grizzly bear managers a new challenge to deal with: a surge of new residents and backcountry neophytes.
On Monday, biologists and land managers of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee discussed what a chaotic summer it had been because of visitors flooding into Montana and how a repeat next summer could be as dangerous for grizzly bears as it was annoying for longtime residents.
“At Glacier National Park, there was a huge COVID effect,” said Glacier Park superintendent Jeff Mow. “Not only is it a large number of visitors who’d never been on public lands before and therefore didn’t know how to behave with some very basic skills like taking care of garbage, burying human waste, dogs, all those public use issues.”
The New York Times has a longish article focused on conflicts between bears and mountain bikers. The story centers on events in this corner of Montana, so you’ll encounter some familiar names and places . . .
The death of a ranger, Brad Treat, in 2016 was a wake-up call for grizzly bear biologists.
Mr. Treat, an avid mountain biker, was zipping along at about 25 miles an hour through dense forest near Glacier National Park in the middle of a summer afternoon when he collided with a large male grizzly bear.
Apparently startled, the bear reacted defensively and quickly killed him. A witness couldn’t see what happened but could hear it. “I heard a thud and an ‘argh,’” the unnamed witness told investigators. Then the bear made a noise “like it was hurt.” The bear disappeared before emergency responders arrived.
Kudos to Debo Powers for spotting this piece in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle . . .
Wildlife managers will talk this week about preventing run-ins between grizzly bears and humans, a discussion that comes after environmental groups pushed officials to reconsider a decade-old report that lined out measures meant to reduce those conflicts.
The Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, meeting in Bozeman on Wednesday and Thursday, will consider grizzly bear death trends and the effectiveness of efforts to avoid people-grizzly conflicts that often end with bears being killed by government officials.
It will be the first time the panel of state and federal government officials from Idaho, Wyoming and Montana has met since a coalition of six environmental groups urged it to reconsider a 2009 report that included a few dozen recommendations to prevent those encounters.
A major subject at last week’s NCDE meeting was the increased conflicts between humans and grizzlies as the bears continue to spread out into their original range . . .
Once teetering on the brink of extirpation, there are now more than 1,000 grizzly bears roaming more than 8 million acres of land known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE), which stretches from the top of Glacier National Park to Missoula.
But the booming bear population also comes with a new challenge: what to do when those grizzlies stray beyond the core of the NCDE, an area that includes Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian reservations, five national forests and large swaths of state and private land. That challenge was the main focus for wildlife and land managers gathered in Missoula for the bi-annual NCDE meeting on Nov. 20.
During the daylong meeting, state and federal wildlife managers updated attendees on the regional grizzly bear population. This year, there have been 50 confirmed grizzly bear deaths or removals from the NCDE. Three of those mortalities (a term used by wildlife biologists whenever a bear is removed from the NCDE population, even if it’s going to a zoo) occurred recently in the Flathead Valley. On Nov. 8, a young male grizzly bear was struck and killed by a train near Columbia Falls. And in the last month, two adult females died near the Hungry Horse Reservoir. Both of those bears died of natural causes.
The Missoulian has an interesting story about how a farmer in the Mission Valley is dealing with bear conflicts . . .
Standing in a hollowed-out section in the middle of his 80-acre cornfield, Greg Schock bends over and picks up one of dozens of corn cobs scattered about. It’s been picked clean of every kernel.
On the dark black ground just barely moistened by Thursday night’s welcome rain, there are grizzly bear tracks and fresh scat dotted with kernels of corn.
From where he’s standing, the longtime Mission Valley dairyman’s view past the edge of the clearing is obscured by the thick rows of corn that will sometime soon become the silage that his cows will depend on to eat through the winter months.
Issues arise as grizzly bears spread out into their historic range in the high plains . . .
If and when they lose federal protection, grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front face an uncertain future.
The questions puzzling members at the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s summer meeting went far beyond whether to have a hunting season. Although grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem remain two or three years away from potential removal from Endangered Species Act oversight, residents in and around Choteau made it clear the bears’ presence was already an issue.
“We’re having more and more issues with grizzlies moving into territory they haven’t occupied for quite some time,” Valier rancher Gene Curry said during a panel discussion on future bear management. “I grew up west of Browning, and grizzly bears never entered anyone’s mind. I used to be on my hands and knees crawling through brush to get to fishing holes. Now when my grandchildren go out to catch their horses in the morning, they have to think about grizzly bears. I had five of them in the yard one morning.”
As the grizzly bear population rises, the bears spread into more of their historic range . . .
A probable grizzly bear sighting just over the edge of the Missoula Valley highlights the theme of this week’s Interagency Grizzly Committee meeting in Choteau: People get ready.
“We’ve done such a good job with the recovery, the public needs to understand what’s happening and how they can be safe in where they live,” IGBC spokesman Gregg Losinski said on Friday. “There are challenges because we’re not doing recovery anymore — we’re doing management.”
Since getting federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1975, grizzly bears now number nearly 2,000 in the continental United States. Most of those are concentrated in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem around Yellowstone National Park (about 700 grizzlies) and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem between Missoula and Glacier National Park (about 1,000 grizzlies).
Here’s the official press release regarding those two delinquent grizzlies that were captured near Whitefish and released near Frozen Lake a few days ago . . .
A young grizzly showed up in Whitefish on August 9 on Dakota Avenue in a residential area. Grizzly Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley set a trap in the late morning near the cherry tree the bear was observed in. The bear was seen several more times that evening near Wildwood Condos and the Lodge at Whitefish Lake.
The bear was captured in the trap on August 10 about noon. It was an unmarked, 2-year old male that weighed 158 pounds with no previous management history. The bear was released on August 11 near Frozen Lake on the BC border.
On the afternoon of August 9, a trap was set for a grizzly bear south of Blanchard Lake. The bear had gotten into dog food and garbage. That bear was captured early in the morning of August 10. It is an unmarked, 4-year old male, weighing 245 pounds with no previous management history. This bear was also released near Frozen Lake.
Both bears were fitted with GPS satellite collars.
Manley says that some grizzly bears are staying in the valley bottom to feed on serviceberry and hawthorn berries. Fruit trees also have apples, plums, and pears that are ripening up right now. Residents should pick their fruit as soon as possible and also make sure other attractants such as garbage, pet food, and bird feeders are not available.