The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had to put down a large male grizzly bear this week after the beast killed 10 calves on a ranch about five miles west of Dupuyer. The incident is one of many involving grizzly bears along the Rocky Mountain Front and adjacent plains in recent weeks.
Elsewhere in the area, FWP bear specialists and wardens have responded to citizen reports of grizzlies showing up near the towns of Choteau, Valier, Conrad, Dutton, Augusta, and Ledger looking for food. Like in years past, bears are using river and creek bottoms as travel corridors. In their search for food, they’re eating fruit out of trees and off the ground, spilled grain, corn in fields and livestock carcasses.
“This time of year, it’s critical that people secure attractants – put away bird feeders, clean up grain around silos, pick up fruit from under your tree, and make sure your pet food is inside,” said Gary Bertellotti, FWP’s Region 4 supervisor. “If you have bear problems or see bears, please call us right away.”
In Montana, bear country can be anywhere in the western half of the state and sometimes beyond. Recently grizzly bears have shown up in places they haven’t been for decades, maybe even in more than a century – Highwood and Big Belt Mountains for instance.
This is also the time of year when bears move off seasonal sources of food, like berries and chokecherries. Livestock in and around these sources of food become more susceptible to depredation as bears look to put on weight for the winter.
Additionally, archery and bird hunters who are hunting in these areas need to understand they could be in close proximity to bears even if they’re miles away from the Rocky Mountain Front. This is a critical time of year to be bear aware – don’t hunt alone, carry bear spray, and be ready to use it and, if possible, make plenty of noise in areas where visibility is limited, even in areas where you wouldn’t expect bears.
Grizzly bears are currently listed on the Endangered Species List in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes the Rocky Mountain Front and points further east. Though the population in the NCDE has reached recovery goals, the federal delisting process for the population is just getting underway.