KALISPELL — With the arrival of fall, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff are busy responding to bear conflicts and working with the public to prevent conflicts.

To date, most of the reported conflicts in northwest Montana have involved bears getting into unsecured garbage and livestock feed, hanging around homes feeding on green grass and clover, and killing small livestock, such as chickens and pigs. FWP staff work with landowners on electric fencing, loaning out bear-resistant garbage containers, and securing attractants with the goal of preventing conflicts.

In fall, bears are increasingly active in preparation for winter denning. FWP has received numerous reports of bears feeding on domestic fruit on residential properties, as well as serviceberries, chokecherries, hawthorn, and huckleberries. Numerous bears have been reported in Whitefish feeding on fruit trees, and FWP staff encourage residences to pick up fruit. A Facebook page named Flathead Fruit Gleaning works to connect residents who want to pick up fruit with those who need fruit picked up. Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/FlatheadFruitGleaning/.

Bears that gain rewards from human food sources can become food conditioned, which means they lose their natural foraging ability and pose an increased risk to human safety. Food rewards can also lead wildlife to become habituated to people, another increased risk to human safety. Both food conditioning and habituation often lead to euthanizing an animal for safety reasons.

Montana is bear country with populations of grizzly and black bears that frequent higher and lower elevations, especially river corridors. Preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.

Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.

Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.

Know your bears. It is important to know the difference between grizzly bears and black bears, whether you are hunting or hiking. 

Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never intentionally get close to a bear. 

Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is a simple, effective short-term way to deter a bear on private property.

A properly constructed electrified fence is both safe for people, livestock and pets, and has proven effective at deterring bears from human-related resources such as beehives, garbage or small livestock.

Please report conflicts to one of the nearest FWP bear management specialists in your area. For a list of specialists, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/species/bear/contact.

Seeing a bear is not necessarily a reportable encounter or an emergency. Report encounters where the bear displayed aggressive or defensive behavior toward people, livestock or pets, or damaged property. In an emergency, phone 9-1-1. For livestock conflicts, contact USDA Wildlife Services.

Learn more about grizzly bears in Montana by visiting https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/species/bear.

Known grizzly bear mortalities in northwest Montana

FWP, in cooperation with other agencies, monitors the population trend of grizzly bears in northwest Montana. The work of this program, including the latest population estimate, is summarized in annual reports published online at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/species/bear/management.

Below are known recent mortalities in northwest Montana not included in the management summary above.

June 22 — Subadult male grizzly bear shot and killed by a landowner off the Martin Creek Road near Olney. The incident is under investigation. 

July 21 — Male grizzly bear cub killed by a vehicle north of Condon in the Swan Valley.

August 1 — Male grizzly bear killed by a vehicle north of Whitefish Lake.

August 16 — Landowners discovered a dead adult female grizzly bear in the Stillwater River near Twin Bridges west of Whitefish. The cause of death is under investigation.

Sept. 6 — Adult male grizzly bear found dead due to accidental poisoning in the Trego area. The bear ate mole and gopher poison in the back of a truck.

NCDE Known and Probable Grizzly Bear Mortalities

As of Sept. 9, the current known and probable grizzly bear mortalities (i.e. dead or removed from the population) in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (spanning FWP regions 1,2, and 4, and two Reservations (Blackfeet & Flathead):

15 — Agency Removals (10 Livestock Depredations, 4 Food Conditioning/Property/Habituation, 1 Human Fatality)

10 — Automobile

4 — Poached/Malicious Killing

3 — Natural

3 — Unknown

2 — Accidental Poisoning

1 — Defense of Life

1 — Capture-related death

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