Seeley Swan Pathfinder -

By Andi Bourne
Pathfinder 

Grizzly Bear Captured South of Condon, Euthanized

 

Grace Siloti

This three-year-old male grizzly was captured at Grace's Greenhouse July 3. Because of its history of getting into trouble that started north of Seeley Lake and repeated food conditioning, it was euthanized.

SWAN VALLEY - Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks captured a male grizzly bear south of Condon and euthanized it because it was food conditioned and had a history of approaching residences.

FWP personnel captured the bear on the night of July 2 with a culvert trap at Grace's Greenhouse. The bear was estimated to be three years old and weighed 299 pounds.

The bear was originally captured incidentally in the summer of 2017 on the Flathead Indian Reservation near Arlee after a different grizzly bear killed several llamas and chickens. Personnel with the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Division fitted the bear with a GPS radio collar for future monitoring and moved the animal within its home range to the Mission Mountains.

The bear was recaptured within 10 days after getting into unsecured food attractants. The bear was moved once again, this time south of St. Ignatius. It spent the last year traveling through Evaro, Arlee, the Placid Lake area, Seeley Lake and the Swan Valley.

The bear's first offense was north of Seeley Lake last fall when it took a harvested deer that was hanging in a shed.

"This was the first indication that he was learning some bad habitats," said FWP Bear Biologist Jamie Jonkel.

This spring the bear returned to the Seeley Lake area. Jonkel said the bear got into three places with unsecured trash and chicken feed north of Boy Scout Road. When the bear headed north, Jonkel referred him to Tim Manley, FWP bear manager in the Swan Valley.

The bear continued the same behavior he started in Seeley Lake. FWP received numerous reports of the animal approaching residences, entering sheds and getting into garbage and chicken feed. It dropped its GPS radio collar when it headed north towards Condon but its identity was confirmed by a microchip upon capture.

At Grace's Greenhouse owner Grace Siloti said the boar broke the door on her greenhouse and tried to get into several bear proof cans on the property. FWP set a trap and captured the bear.

Due to the bear's conflict history and habituation, FWP made the decision to euthanize it on July 3 in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.

"This wasn't Grace's fault and it wasn't the bear's fault. It was the people who introduced him to garbage in the first place," said Jonkel. "It's sort of a long process."

Jonkel explained that bears co-exist with humans until they first stumble upon that "gold mine of attractants." Green lawns in the middle of the forest are what first attract them. Then if there is a reward from unsecured garbage, bird feeders, unsecured livestock or animal feed they get a reward.

"I look at all the home sites in the mountains as behavioral traps or behavioral training grounds. Just about every bear gets trained up. There is no such thing as a wild bear anymore," said Jonkel.

Jonkel said that once a bear starts hitting multiple sites in search of food and they start entering buildings and working porches are the indicators that a bear is fully food conditioned. He acknowledges that every bear will be tempted at some point but it is the continuous rewards that solidifies the behavior.

Jonkel reminded residents that garbage and bird feeders are the number one bear attractant. Also chickens are becoming a huge attractant and must be protected with an electric fence. Finally grain and chicken feed must be stored in a steel truck box that is locked or a secure garage. Tupperware containers will not prevent a bear from getting into the feed.

"Chicken feed is one of the highest protein feed," said Jonkel. "It's like candy for a bear."

This incident demonstrates that wild animals may become habituated to people, posing a serious risk to public safety. When responding to a conflict involving bears, FWP follows guidelines associated with the incident that informs an appropriate action. These factors include the potential human safety threats, the intensity of the conflict and the bear's history of conflicts. Putting down an adult bear is always a last resort.

For the most current information on bears in the area visit missoulabears.org and follow Missoula Bears on Facebook.

 

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