GREAT FALLS — A grizzly bear was euthanized Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services after it was confirmed to have killed a cow in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said in a news release that the bear was first reported last week after a remote camera captured images of it feeding on a cow carcass. Traps were set over the weekend following the discovery of a second cow carcass with bear sign nearby. Wildlife Services technicians confirmed evidence that the bear had killed both cows.
The male bear, which weighed 447 pounds and was estimated to be between four and six years old, was trapped on private land on Wednesday and euthanized after consultation with FWP, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services. Factors influencing the decision included the age and sex of the bear, as well as its location well outside of identified connectivity corridors between the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide grizzly populations. FWP will collect DNA samples from the bear in order to determine its origin.
Farmers, ranchers, homeowners and outdoor recreationists should be prepared to encounter bears as their population and range expands east from the Rocky Mountain Front. Grizzly bears are still protected under the Endangered Species Act, and final authority regarding their management is up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In related news, FWP wildlife specialists captured and moved a male grizzly bear on May 6th in the Ophir Creek area northeast of Avon in Powell County. Over the past month, several grizzly bears have been confirmed in the immediate area, in close proximity to cattle calving grounds on local ranches. A grizzly killed a yearling cow in early April in the vicinity, and bears have continued to remain in the area since then.
Wildlife staff moved the bear out of the immediate area as a measure to help prevent further livestock loss during the spring calving season. They took the 429-pound male to a more remote area in the upper Blackfoot Valley. Other grizzly bears remain in the area, and FWP is working with local ranches to help secure livestock and other attractants.
- Grizzly bear confirmed near Big Sandy
- Grizzly euthanized after attack in Pondera County
- FWP captures grizzlies that got into grain near Shelby
Meeting May 24 in Lewistown
FWP will host a public meeting on grizzly bear awareness, including how to minimize conflict, on Monday, May 24, at 6:30 p.m. at the Yogo Inn in Lewistown. The event is open to the public, and area landowners are encouraged to attend.
At the meeting, FWP bear management specialist Wesley Sarmento will give a presentation on the background of grizzly bears in Montana, how the department manages grizzly bear conflict, and the challenges of grizzly expansion on the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.
In addition, Sarmento will explain what to do during a bear encounter, how to safely deter a bear using non-lethal tools and how to secure attractants to prevent a bear from being drawn into agricultural operations and residences. He will also cover other tips to keep people safe around bears, including:
- Rural farmsteads should be kept as clean as possible by securing attractants such as garbage, bird feeders and pet food.
- Grain spills are a major attractant to grizzly bears but can be easily cleaned up by putting tarps under loading equipment.
- Landowners may haze grizzly bears off their property from the safety of a hard-sided vehicle or with loud noises, provided the federally protected animal is not harmed in the process.
- Chickens and other small livestock can be easily protected with electric fencing or kept inside a closed shed with a door at night.
- Livestock loss can also be prevented by distributing animals and feed away from brush and rivers during the months when bears are active.
- Domestic fruit should be picked up as soon as possible.
- Folks are urged to “Be Bear Aware” when working or recreating outside by following precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it, and traveling in groups while making noise.
If you see a bear near your residence in central or north central Montana, please report the activity as soon as possible to Sarmento at 450-1097, Chad White at 788-4755, or your local FWP office.