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Two Food-Conditioned Grizzlies Killed Near Polebridge

Grizzly bears roam near Polebridge seeking food sources.
Courtesy MontanaFWP
Grizzly bears roam near Polebridge seeking food sources.

Two yearling grizzly bears were euthanized near Polebridge on Sunday, as bears venture closer to people at a time when they’re trying to pack on calories for hibernation.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Dillon Tabish says the bears broke into a yurt, a cooler, garbage, a vehicle and a trailer.

"That type of behavior obviously shows that they were very food-conditioned and habituated to human presence, meaning that they’d lost their natural foraging behavior, and were seeking food rewards from humans."

Tabish says the bears’ mother was in the area, but did not actively participate in any behavior that showed signs of habituation.

"Any time we have to remove an animal from the population, that’s our last resort," Tabish says. "So we wanted to give the adult female an opportunity, a second chance to be in the wild, and we’re gonna monitor her activity."

The euthanizations come in a year with a far higher than average number of bears killed or removed from the population in the area in and around Glacier National Park, known as the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Two other bears have also been relocated in recent weeks. One, also in Polebridge, was moved to Glacier National Park after feeding on a field of oats in plain view of people. Another was captured near Whitefish and moved up Coal Creek in the North Fork of the Flathead area to decrease bear density.

"Bears are very active right now. It is down to the final months before denning season," Tabish says. "And now they are trying to load up on as much food as possible, so we’re receiving reports of bears all across the region at lower elevation."

Tabish says residents, hikers and hunters should secure attractants and be especially bear aware as denning season approaches.

Nick Mott is a reporter and podcast producer based in Livingston, Montana.
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