KALISPELL A 2½-year-old grizzly bear recently emerged from a culvert trap stepped into the sunlight and entered the rugged Cabinet Mountains near the Montana-Idaho border.
The 120-pound male marked the latest addition to a small-but-growing population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish reports it was the 20th grizzly bear moved to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem through an augmentation program that began in 1990 in an effort to save the population and boost genetic diversity.
FWP and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently captured the bear in a remote area near Stryker Basin in the Stillwater State Forest. It was fitted with a GPS radio collar for future monitoring and was released in a remote area west of Spar Lake in the Kootenai National Forest south of Troy.
The augmentation program continues to be a success in an ecosystem that saw its grizzly bear population nearly vanish 30 years ago, according to Tabish.
“We are trying to increase the genetic structure of the population by bringing in unrelated individuals with no history of conflict,” said FWP grizzly bear management specialist Kim Annis. “We have a really good family tree for the Cabinet Mountains that shows we might possibly have lost the population altogether without having continued this augmentation program.”
The recovery goal is 100 grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak and hopefully over time the animals will link with surrounding yet separate ecosystems, the Selkirk to the west, the Northern Continental Divide to the east, the Bitterroot to the south, and British Columbia to the north.
“The ultimate goal is to see bears move into the Cabinet Mountains and reproduce. We haven’t seen documented gene flow or reproduction, and only in the last few years have we seen minimal movement into the Cabinet Mountains,” Kasworm said. “That’s another step forward.”
FWP shared the below video of the grizzly bear being released in Lincoln County.