KALISPELL, MT -- The number of grizzly bears captured in Montana's Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem set records this year, prompting discussions among state wildlife officials about a new era in grizzly bear management.
Conflicts between bears and humans soared during the 2011 season and kept grizzly bear managers extremely busy, particularly in northwestern Montana. In the past 10 days alone, six additional bears were removed from the wild, according to John Fraley, spokesman for Region 1 of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The recent captures bring the grand total to 44 bears that were trapped in 2011, according to bear conflict specialists with FWP. Since 1993, the agency reports an annual average of 17 grizzly bear captures in the same management area.
Nearly one-third of this year's captures involved bears that were killing chickens specifically, and wildlife specialists issued numerous reminders to residents about containing attractants like feed and using electric fences to protect chicken coops.
Other bears were captured for getting into livestock feed, pet food, bird seed, fruit trees, and for killing livestock. Bears were also removed for breaking into structures like barns, chicken coops, sheds and garages.
The 44 captures involved 28 individual grizzly bears, some of which were captured on multiple occasions. Eleven bears were removed from the wild, including six bears that were killed. The other 17 grizzly bears remain in the wild, and most of them are being monitored with radio collars.
In a single week this month, four cubs and two adult female grizzly bears were captured. Both adult grizzlies were euthanized, while the four cubs will remain at the FWP Wildlife Center in Helena until the agency finds a zoo or wildlife center that will accept them.