Spike in northwest Montana grizzly bear mortalities due to vehicle collisions

Posted at 6:07 PM, Aug 06, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-06 20:53:12-04

KALISPELL – The number of human-related grizzly bear removals in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) this year has spiked.

“There has been more than our annual average of grizzly bear mortalities, which are removed bears from the population. They’re not all necessarily dead,” said Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish.

“Some of them we moved a bear to up by Libby in the Cabin and Yaak. That means that we’ve taken it out of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. So there has been more than average so far this year,” he added.

So far, 27 have been removed from the NCDE. Tabish says the agency has seen a particular increase from the typical three mortalities under vehicle collision to 13. That means they were either hit by vehicles and killed or they were an orphaned cub orphaned because of a vehicle collision.

Tabish says of those 13, nine were killed by vehicles and four cubs orphaned due to a collision.

“It’s concerning. That is a higher number than we would like to see, but there is a very robust and healthy population of grizzly bears in this ecosystem,” Tabish said.

“We have over a thousand grizzly bears, and so it’s hard to judge something on a one-year basis. But we do closely monitor these numbers and if this becomes a trend then we will really take a harder look at if there is other steps we need to take,” Tabish told MTN News.

He says collisions occur more frequently in the early morning hours or late at night because that’s when animals are most active, particularly bears. Going a little slower at night and keeping an eye out to see if there is a bear crossing the road will help drivers hopefully avoid a collision.

“It’s been a very busy summer. There is obviously a lot of tourists going in and out of Glacier National Park and a lot of tourists in Montana and with more people on the roads and more wildlife that can, unfortunately, lead to collisions,” Tabish said.

He says people can also help the effort by reducing food attractants near their homes. He says bears are getting ready to start denning, so folks can help by putting away garbage, setting up electric fencing and eliminating anything that is going to attract a bear.

Reporting by Nicole Miller for MTN News