Two grizzly bears relocated after calf killed in the Blackfoot Valley

Posted at 11:05 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 13:05:40-04

Wildlife officials captured and relocated two male grizzly bears from the Blackfoot Valley after a newborn calf was killed on a cattle ranch near Helmville on May 7.

Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks said in a news release that because several grizzlies and wolves were at site, it was not possible to determine which bear was involved, and neither of the two bears captured had a history of interactions with livestock or humans.

Both bears were collared and relocated to remote areas in northwest Montana. The ranch is working with the Blackfoot Challenge watershed group to discuss the feasibility of using electric fencing to help prevent future livestock depredations.

Due to the timing of the ranches calving period on the open range, there is overlap with elk and deer calving, making the ranch more susceptible to grizzly bear and wolf predation.

In related news, last week FWP captured three grizzly bears south of Ferndale along the northwestern edge of Swan Lake (just southeast of Bigfork) and moved them to the North Fork of the Flathead drainage.

FWP received reports in mid-April of the bears eating grass in residential yards along the west shore of Swan Lake before moving to areas north of Woods Bay. On May 1, FWP received a report of the bears knocking over a barbecue grill along Flathead Lake and getting into unsecured garbage in Woods Bay. FWP set culvert traps in a secure location on private property in an attempt to capture the bears.

On May 3, the bears had moved back east and were reported getting into hummingbird feeders and garbage at residences along Crane Mountain Road. The bears then moved south to Cedar Bay and West Swan Shore Lane where they were reported to be feeding in residential yards and getting into bird feeders and dog food. FWP set traps on private property near Cedar Bay on May 4 and all three bears were captured May 7. The bears are each estimated to be three years old.

After consulting with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, FWP decided to release the bears in remote sections of the North Fork. On May 8, the two female bears were released together in the Whale Creek drainage. The male bear was released near the British Columbia border. All three bears were fitted with GPS radio collars to monitor their movements.