Grizzly country continues to broaden in Montana

Grizzlymfwp
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks urged bird hunters to exercise caution in and around Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area south of Ronan after the grizzly encounter. (Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks)

GREAT FALLS — Bear tracks and hair samples collected in the North Moccasin Mountains near Lewistown confirm the presence of a grizzly bear in the area, Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks officials said Monday.

“Having a grizzly bear in this area is not surprising after what we’ve seen the last few years in terms of bears moving further east into central Montana,” said FWP regional supervisor Gary Bertellotti.

Bear tracks from the west side of the mountain range were reported to FWP on April 29. An FWP grizzly bear management specialist visited the location on Saturday, April 30, and confirmed the 6 ¼-inch-wide tracks were made by a grizzly bear.

After tracks confirmed the species of the bear, FWP spoke with neighboring property owners to notify them of the bear’s presence, identify any potential conflicts, and search for additional grizzly sign. Hair collected from a barbed wire fence along a riparian area nearby was also identified as belonging to a grizzly.

Bear management specialists also worked with area landowners to identify and secure potential human-related food sources, install trail cameras on likely travel routes and food sources, and discuss safety for farming and ranching in the area. Bear spray was given to all landowners contacted by FWP.

This is the first confirmation of a grizzly in the North Moccasin Mountains in recent years. Last spring a grizzly bear was confirmed to have killed cattle in the Big Snowy Mountains south of Lewistown. That bear was later trapped and euthanized.

A trail camera photo of a grizzly bear was reported to have been taken in the same mountain range in early April, although FWP was not able to identify the owner of the photograph to investigate the report. In more and more of central Montana, area residents may consider such precautions as carrying bear spray while working and recreating and practicing conflict prevention techniques such as removing livestock carcasses and open grain sources and installing electric fencing around potential attractants.

Grizzly bears are protected under the Endangered Species Act, and final authority regarding management actions are up to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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