Grizzly caught outside of Montana established recovery areas

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff immobilized the grizzly bear, fitted it with a GPS radio collar for future monitoring and moved it to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem. Photo by Dillon Tabish, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Montana wildlife officials have captured a subadult male grizzly near McGregor Lake in a culvert trap after it had been spotted frequenting residential areas.

The Great Falls Tribune reports that the bear captured April 28 was 3 years old and weighed 246 pounds. After it was captured, it was fitted with a GPS radio collar and relocated to the Big Creek drainage on the west side of Lake Koocanusa in the Kootenai National Forest.

This capture is of particular interest to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks because it occurred outside of the five established grizzly recovery areas, meaning grizzlies have expanded their territory.

Dillon Tabish, the agency's regional information and education program manager, said Montana has never had grizzlies in that area before.

The following press release was sent out by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks:

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) captured a subadult male grizzly bear on April 28 near McGregor Lake and released the animal in a remote location in the Kootenai National Forest.

The bear, approximately 3 years old and weighing 246 pounds, had been frequenting residential areas and eating bird seed and garbage around McGregor Lake and Little Bitterroot Lake near Marion. Residents reported several sightings of the bear. The animal did not have any prior conflicts.

FWP Bear Management Specialist Tim Manley set a culvert trap in the area and captured the animal on the night of April 28. The bear was fitted with a GPS radio collar for future monitoring. FWP Director Martha Williams assisted Manley and Region 1 Wildlife Manager Neil Anderson with the immobilization and processing of the bear.

In consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, FWP moved the bear on May 1 to the Big Creek drainage on the west side of Lake Koocanusa on the Rexford Ranger District.

When responding to a bear incident, FWP follows guidelines that inform an appropriate action. These factors include the potential human safety threats, the intensity of the conflict and the bear’s history of conflicts.

Interestingly, the capture site was located between two grizzly bear recovery areas: the Northern Continental Divide and Cabinet-Yaak ecosystems. The release area is remote habitat within the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, encompassing the Yaak Valley and the Cabinet and Purcell mountain ranges in northwest Montana and northeast Idaho.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, encompassing Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and most of northwest Montana, is home to the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48 states, with an estimated 1,000 bears. The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem is home to a much smaller grizzly population with an estimated 53 bears.

Now that bears are active, residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders to avoid conflicts.

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