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.
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.”