Priest Lake area male grizzly collared for research

A 430-pound male grizzly bear was trapped, tranquilized and fitted with a GPS collar north of Nordman, Idaho, on June 21, 2014, by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers. (Alex Welander / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
A 430-pound male grizzly bear was trapped, tranquilized and fitted with a GPS collar north of Nordman, Idaho, on June 21, 2014, by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service researchers. (Alex Welander / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

A 430-pound grizzly bear has been trapped by researchers and fitted with a transmitting collar north of Priest Lake.

The male bear was snared by federal trappers Alex Welander and Matt Grode June 21 in the Jackson Creek area about 10 miles north of Nordman, said Wayne Kasworm, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grizzly bear biologist in Libby who is supervising the collaring project.

The bear becomes the sixth grizzly in the Selkirk Mountains transmitting information to state and federal wildlife biologists for ongoing endangered species research.  The other bears are females collared in 2012 or 2013.

“He was fitted with a GPS radio collar that will record locations every two hours and store the information in the collar,” Kasworm said. “I also fly the animal to get weekly radio locations and since capture, the bear has moved in a radius of approximately 10 miles.” 

Trappers have captured two black bears this season in addition to the grizzly bear. The black bears are ear-tagged and released.

Trapping has shifted this month to the area south of Sullivan Lake, and in August the trappers plan to focus north and east of Upper Priest Lake, Kasworm said.

 “The crew places warning notices at all major access points and trailheads in the area,” said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager. “They place more signs closer to the actual snare site.”

This year, the first significant research trapping in Washington occurred in May. The federal crew set snares at Molybdenite Mountain south of Sullivan Lake. No grizzly bears were captured.

Researchers also are attempting to trap bears in the northeastern corner of Idaho near Copper Creek and Copper Lake in the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area.

The transmitters enable biologists to measure population trends based on reproduction and mortality rates, Kasworm said. “In addition, we gather information on habitat use, food habits and seasonal movements.”

Radio collars have been helping wildlife biologists monitor North Idaho grizzly bears, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act, since the first grizzly was collared in the Selkirks in 1983, Wakkinen said.

More than 80 different grizzly bears have been captured. The transmitters function about two years. The collars are designed to deteriorate and fall off around that time.

“There have been some years when we didn’t trap in Idaho but we’ve generally been trapping in either Idaho or the British Columbia portion of the Selkirk ecosystem since then,” Wakkinen said.

Snares are checked at least once a day, or twice a day in hot or cold and rainy weather, Kasworm said. Most of the traps have transmitters that signal the crew if they’ve been triggered.

The snare sites are placed well off of trails to reduce the chance of an encounter with humans, Wakkinen said. 

Snare sites are baited, typically with road-killed deer. 

“If a person smells something stinky the best bet is to not investigate,” he said, “but this advice holds true whether there is trapping going on or not.

“If there’s something stinky there’s a chance that a predator of some sort – black bear, cougar, grizzly bear – may be around to check it out.  Or you might be poking your nose into a recent kill site where a cougar has stashed its prey.”

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