MISSOULA – Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks euthanized a grizzly bear in the Blackfoot Valley on Sunday following repeated break-ins at a barn to access grain.
The sub-adult, male grizzly was euthanized May 12 after exhibiting food-conditioned behavior.
Once bears become conditioned to attractants like grain, it is difficult to break the behavior patterns, according to FWP bear management specialist James Jonkel. Bears will then often remain in the area near homes and agricultural and livestock operations while becoming bolder and more aggressive in accessing food.
“In 2018, we had the highest bear conflict year on record in the Blackfoot,” Jonkel said. “Some of what we’re seeing now is young bears that were taught bad behavior last year, returning and looking for livestock feed and other attractants.”
Jonkel added several unusual factors, including the 2017 fires and heavy snowpack, may have displaced some bears into valley areas more than usual.
A good berry crop in the valleys last fall also contributed to more concentrated bear activity. Some of the bears found food near homes and livestock that prompted them to return this spring in search of more.
“It is important to keep bear attractants such as garbage, pet and livestock food and chickens, behind electric fences or inside a secure structure,” Jonkel said. “If bears are able to find these things easily, then they tend to stay in the area looking for more.”
FWP captured the bear early Sunday morning. FWP decided to euthanize the grizzly in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in accordance with Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee guidelines.
The bear is the third grizzly to be euthanized in Montana in a month.
A young male grizzly along the Sun River near Fort Shaw was euthanized on May 1 for killing several calves while a sub-adult male grizzly was put down in late April in the Helmville Valley for its involvement in livestock depredations.
Bear activity along the Rocky Mountain Front has increased over the past few weeks as well.
Two grizzlies were captured on camera swimming in Lake Frances in Valier Saturday while the Montana FWP Prairie Bear Monitor warned people about grizzlies along the Marias River near the Interstate 15 bridge last week.