Montana bears lured into trouble

Bears kept Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks managers busy last year, partly because rural residents weren’t up to speed on living with the increased number of grizzlies in the region.

Officials captured a record 44 grizzly bears in Montana’s Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in 2011 as conflicts between bears and humans soared.

A flurry of problems in northwestern Montana resulted in six bears being captured and relocated in 10 days in November.

Since 1993, the agency reports an annual average of 17 grizzly bear captures in the same management area.

Nearly one-third of last year’s captures involved bears that were killing chickens. Wildlife specialists issued numerous reminders to residents about containing attractants like feed and using electric fences to protect chicken coops.

Other bears were captured for getting into livestock feed, pet food, bird seed, fruit trees, and for killing livestock. Bears also were removed for breaking into structures like barns, chicken coops, sheds and garages.

The 44 captures involved 28 individual grizzly bears, some of which were captured on multiple occasions. Eleven bears were removed from the wild, including six bears that were killed. The other 17 grizzly bears remain in the wild, and most of them are being monitored with radio collars.

According to FWP grizzly bear researcher Rick Mace, the population of about 1,000 grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem is growing about 2 percent a year.

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Rich Landers

Rich Landers

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