Polebridge Bear Smart (PBBS) is looking forward to a busy summer with continuation of existing projects and the addition of exciting new ones.
The late spring/early summer season is in full swing with the first of two PBBS trainings for seasonal employees of Polebridge businesses completed on May 24th. This year the program was advanced by partnering with the Glacier Institute as well as Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) both of whom were on hand to help with training, providing inert bear spray for practice and to answer the insightful questions posed by participants.
We are particularly excited about an Initial Response Program we have developed in collaboration with Justine Vallieres, bear biologist with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. PBBS volunteers recently completed training and are standing by ready to respond to North Fork land owners who have a bear incident or a bear frequenting their property. The intent is to quickly provide assistance under the guidance of the bear biologists who are often overwhelmed with incidents during the busy summer months. We are able to loan game cameras and scare devices on the short term to identify individual bears and deter them. In doing so we hope to protect the bears from habituation as well as mitigate property damage, keeping both bears and humans safer. PLEASE reach out if you have an issue with a bear frequenting your property and please let FWP know if a bear causes damage or does not respond to hazing. This information helps them determine which individual bears might be involved. Recent research has shown that early efforts at deterring bears is most effective; removing bears to an alternative location often does not resolve the issue as bears tend to migrate back to their previous habitat.
Additionally, PBBS will be expanding its programs this year to include outreach to short term rental property owners with tools to help renters be responsible and safe in bear country. If you own a short term rental, expect an email contact regarding this program.
During the summer of 2022, with support from a Sierra Club grant and private donations, we launched a bear canister program for North Fork residents. The 96 gallon Kodiak bear resistant canisters were made available at a reduced cost for purchase or rent. This program will continue in 2023; please see accompanying information if you wish to purchase or rent a canister.
Feel free to contact Suzanne Hildner with any comments questions or suggestions. Here’s looking forward to a fun filled and safe summer for both humans and bears.
KALISPELL — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear management specialists euthanized a grizzly bear that frequented near homes and was habituated to people in the North Fork area of the Flathead River.
FWP specialists recently received reports from landowners of the bear appearing in yards around people. The bear was captured May 26. Its teeth were in extremely poor condition and the adult male was estimated to be approximately 22 years old.
The decision was made to euthanize the bear May 27 in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.
“This bear had grown comfortable around people, which is unnatural and unsafe for people and wildlife,” said Justine Vallieres, FWP grizzly bear management specialist. “The bear’s health condition was also poor due to its teeth and age. All of these factors created an increasing likelihood for potential conflict in an area where people live.”
Privately-run campgrounds are adding another complication for wildlife managers trying to reduce human conflicts with grizzly bears, experts said this week.
On Thursday, the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem subcommittee met in Kalispell to review last year’s management of NCDE grizzly bears and discuss future challenges as more people with little wildlife awareness move to western Montana. Another 50 members of the committee and the public joined the meeting online.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks grizzly research biologist Cecily Costello summarized the 2021 data that showed the NCDE population is stable based upon the 2017 Conservation Strategy criteria. However, 44 bears, including 11 cubs, died within the primary conservation area and the surrounding Zone 1 buffer area – stretching from Eureka south to the Ninemile Valley, east over Rogers Pass and north through the Blackfeet Reservation.
Wow! Lee Enterprises, owner of a number of newspapers in this part of the country, including the Missoulian, recently wrapped up their “Grizzlies and Us” project, a ten-part series consisting of some 22 individual articles examining “…the many issues surrounding the uneasy coexistence of grizzlies and humans…”
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.
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.
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.