State euthanizes chicken-killing grizzlies

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Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured a pair of young grizzly bears near the north end of Whitefish Lake and euthanized the animals due to food-conditioning, livestock depredation and property damage.

The yearlings were with an adult female grizzly bear that was also involved in the livestock depredations and property damage. State personnel captured the yearlings June 7 and held the bears onsite in an attempt to capture the adult female. The bears, each weighing approximately 120 pounds, were provided food and water inside the culvert traps until the decision was made to humanely kill them with a euthanasia drug at a local veterinary clinic on June 12, according to a press release from Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The agency removed the bears in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.

Efforts to capture the adult female near Whitefish Lake were unsuccessful.

The three grizzly bears were captured last fall near Whitefish after killing chickens and were moved to the North Fork of the Flathead River drainage. Within a week, they returned to the valley and killed additional chickens and caused extensive property damage along Whitefish Stage Road and then Farm to Market Road.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks is monitoring increased grizzly and black bear activity across Northwest Montana, including the Ferndale and Whitefish areas, and personnel are actively working to reduce conflicts in collaboration with landowners, the press release said.

The incidents demonstrate that wild animals can lose their natural foraging habits once they become food-conditioned, and this poses a serious risk to public safety and the animal.

When responding to a conflict involving bears, the state agency follows guidelines associated with the incident 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.

Residents are encouraged to report possible bear activity as soon as possible. To report grizzly bear activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call FWP bear management specialists at 406-250-1265. To report black bear and mountain lion activity in the greater Flathead Valley, call (406) 250-0062). To report bear activity in the Cabinet-Yaak area, call 406-291-1320.

So far in 2019, there have been 16 grizzly bear mortalities in the NCDE.

Residents are asked to remove or secure food attractants such as garbage and bird feeders and bird seed. Chickens and livestock should be properly secured with electric fencing or inside a closed shed with a door.

The Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. It is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE. This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population, and notifying the public.

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