WILDLIFE -- A Montana grizzly bear that had been trapped, collared for research and released northwest of Noxon has wandered to the Coeur d’Alene River area north of Interstate 90 where Idaho wildlife officials say they’ll attempt to trap it again.
Like many bears trying to survive the record-dry year, the 2-year-old male grizzly appears to be on the search for food, said Wayne Wakkinen, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d’Alene.
The bear was videotaped Wednesday by Kingston-area resident Sandy Podsaid, clearly showing that it was a collared grizzly.
On Aug. 4, the grizzly had been captured in a culvert trap by Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks staffers about 20 miles north of Whitefish. The bear was transported and released the same day near Spar Lake north of SR200 near the Montana-Idaho border.
The bear was captured and released as part of the practice of Montana and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to occasionally bolster the struggling grizzly bear population in the Cabinet Mountains, Wakkinen said. The grizzly is federally protected as a threatened species by the Endangered Species Act.
“The bear was 165 pounds and healthy when it was captured,” he said. “The bears they select for augmentation over the years are young bears that have not history of problems or conflict with humans. These aren’t problem bears.”
GPS tracking from the grizzly’s collar indicates steady movement to different areas since its relocation, Wakkinen said. “It appears that the bear has been bounced around by wildfires and fire-fighting activity,” he said.
The bear has been reported in the Coeur d’Alene drainage several times since Sept. 4.
“A bowhunter reported that he was annoyed by squirrels that were suddenly yakking at him and when he stood up, the grizzly was feeding near him about 15 yards away, not paying attention to the hunter,” Wakkinen said.
“Then a fisherman sent in a photo on Tuesday saying a grizzly swam across the Coeur d’Alene in front of him.”
Since the bear seems to have lost its natural wariness of human activity, state and federal wildlife officials have decided they’ll try to recapture the bear and move it out of the area.
“That won’t necessarily be easy; it may be impossible,” Wakkinen said. “The bear hasn’t really settled into one area, so trap placement is difficult.
“And the bear has a very recent unpleasant memory of being caught in a culvert trap, so it may be reluctant to go inside one again.”
The grizzly hasn’t been reported getting into a homeowner’s garbage or pet food, yet, but that possibility is a major concern for wildlife managers.
“We’ve had a definite uptick in reports of black bears in lowland areas looking for food, even right out of Coeur d’Alene,” Wakkinen said. “Given this year’s conditions, bear biologists aren’t surprised.
“It’s important for people to keep their garbage, pet food and bird seed away from the reach of bears.”
The grizzly bear videotaped in a yard north of Kingston appeared to be sniffing around looking for food, Wakkinen said.
The video shows the bear poking its head into barrels, which according to Podsaid were used to hold grease and other bait for hunting black bears. "The barrels were empty, but they still had scent," he said.
The bear also ran up to his mule, he said, "but I was yelling and cussing and the mule stomped and blew and the bear stopped, but it didn't immediately go away."
A link to the video has been posted on the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Facebook page.