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Two West Yellowstone-area grizzlies euthanized after run-ins with humans

Two West Yellowstone-area grizzlies euthanized after run-ins with humans

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Bear path

A grizzly bear strolls down a path in Yellowstone National Park earlier this year before the crush of summer tourism.

Two grizzly bears have been euthanized after multiple conflicts in campsites and at residences near West Yellowstone.

Conflicts with the two subadult grizzlies — a male and a female — began in 2019. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staff worked to haze the bears, and at the time the efforts seemed successful.

Reports of problems with the bears started again on Aug. 5, and by the time the bears were last captured on Sept. 1, there were 15 reports of two bears being in campgrounds at night, inside porches and on steps, where they were able to access garbage and dog food.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear specialists set cameras and noise alarms at two sites where the bears gained access to garbage. When those hazing efforts were unsuccessful, the specialists set traps for the bears on Aug. 15, and both were captured a day later.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks; the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; and the Forest Service agreed to relocate and release the bears due to their young age and because this was their first time being captured. Both bears were fitted with ear tags and satellite collars.

The bears then returned to the area where the conflicts had occurred previously, and on Aug. 25 the problems resumed, including the bears getting into an occupied tent, as well as a storage compartment on an RV.

Fish, Wildlife and Parks captured both bears again on Sept. 1.

Due to the chronic conflicts and concerns for human safety, the bears were euthanized following consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

“When garbage and other attractants are left unsecured and available to bears, human safety becomes a huge concern, and bear mortalities are the unfortunate result,” said Mark Deleray, FWP’s regional supervisor in southwest Montana. “This is why we ask people to be so careful with food, garbage, and similar items. It really requires just a little effort.”

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are currently listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, working closely with Fish, Wildlife and Parks; Wildlife Services; the Forest Service; and tribal governments. This collaboration happens through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Several grizzly bear recovery areas exist in or near Montana, including the Selkirk, Cabinet-Yaak, Northern Continental Divide, Bitterroot and Greater Yellowstone ecosystems.

Grizzly bear populations are becoming denser and more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in new places each year. Being prepared for such encounters and keeping attractants secured is more important than ever, both to keep people and property safe and to cultivate healthy bear behavior.

Forest Service food storage orders require all unattended food, garbage and attractants to be stored in at least one of the following ways: in hard-sided vehicles; in locked IGBC-approved bear-resistant products, which include certain electric fencing; hung at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet away from a tree or pole, out of the reach of wildlife.

In addition to following food storage orders, hunters and other recreationists should take further precautions when in bear country:

  • Be aware of your surroundings and look for bear sign.
  • Carry and know how to use bear spray.
  • Travel in groups and make noise whenever possible to avoid surprising a bear.
  • Stay away from animal carcasses.
  • Anyone moving quickly (i.e. mountain bikers, trail runners) is at a higher risk of surprising a bear.
  • Where possible, avoid traveling at night, dawn or dusk.
  • If you encounter a bear, never run away.

For more information on avoiding negative encounters with bears, visit igbconline.org/bear-safety.

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