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Montana news about the environment, natural resources, wildlife, climate change and more.

47 grizzlies died this year in NW MT, some had a mysterious brain disease

Grizzly bear family. Stock photo.

There were 47 known or probable mortalities within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in and around Glacier National Park in 2022, which is just below the record-breaking numbers from the recent past. It’s the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48. Bears were killed for repeatedly preying on livestock or became a safety hazard due to food-conditioning, and accounted for 30 of those mortalities.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologist Cecily Costello says there were also a few bears that were euthanized because they appeared to have some sort of disease impacting brain function.

“They were circling around. They looked like they had balance issues, they were just disoriented and were moving around oddly.”

Costello says FWP was able to perform a necropsy on one of those bears and confirmed it had encephalitis, which is the swelling of the brain. However, the cause was unknown.

Costello says the agency will be on the lookout for bears experiencing similar symptoms next year to determine whether these bears are part of a larger trend.

There have been 43 grizzly bear mortalities in and around Glacier Park this year, an increase from 2020. Eighteen of those bears were females and 25 were males.
At their peak, grizzly bears numbered more than 50,000 in the Lower 48. They roamed from the West Coast to the Great Plains, from northern Alaska to…
More than a half dozen wildlife bills have been signed into law, all with a similar vision for Montana: they suggest that there are too many predators on the landscape — and that numbers of animals like wolves and grizzly bears need to be reduced.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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