Two female grizzly bears have been transplanted from the Whitefish Range to the Spar Lake area of the Cabinet Mountains as part of an ongoing effort to boost the struggling Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear population.
The 2-year-old siblings were captured in the Deadhorse Creek drainage on the Flathead National Forest, fitted with GPS collars and moved Friday to the West Cabinets and a drainage with a hiking trail to Spar Lake near the Montana-Idaho border.
The bears have no history of conflict with people and have never been captured before, state wildlife officials said.
Those factors plus their young age are part of the criteria for the augmentation program, a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The state agency captures the bears while the federal agency monitors them after their release.
Friday’s release marks the 12th and 13th grizzly bears released into the Cabinets since 2005.
In the early 1990s, three grizzly bears were moved into the Cabinets. Most of the bears that have been moved have been females.
Last year, a study using genetic analysis of bear hair samples produced a population estimate of 42 bears for the Cabinet-Yaak region.
Wayne Kasworm, a biologist with the Fish and Wildlife Service based in Libby, said the estimate means there may have been fewer than 15 grizzly bears prior to 1990, indicating the grizzly population might have vanished without the augmentation efforts.
As of last year, it was still unknown if any of the bears that have been moved since 2005 have reproduced.
That’s partly because the young bears were moved well before they reached a reproductive age of 5 or 6 years old, and they drop their tracking collars within a couple of years.
Wilderness films featured tonight
A free mini-film festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act is traveling through the Inland Northwest this summer.
The beauty, history and adventure of wilderness are featured in 10 short films totaling just over an hour of entertainment suitable for all ages. Only Congress has the power to designate official wilderness, the highest category of protection offered for America’s public lands.
Screenings of the films include:
• Spokane – Mountain Gear Store, 2002 N. Division, 6:30 p.m., tonight.
• Metaline Falls – Cutter Theater, 7:30 p.m., Friday.
Films include: “American Values – American Wilderness,” “Last Light,” “Sage Steppe,” “North Cascades Wilderness Ranger,” and a production by Gonzaga senior students highlighting the Salmo-Priest Wilderness in northeastern Washington.
River recreation opens at Post Falls
The Spokane River’s flows have subsided enough for the spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed, Avista Utilities reports. That has allowed river recreation to open for the season starting this week in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the boater safety cables that are just upstream of the Post Falls Dam.
The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park also is opening. The swim beach will open later this week after the parks department removes fencing, installs swim safety buoys and lifeguards are scheduled.
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