Big Sky Roundup

Food-conditioned grizzly bear captured, euthanized in Big Sky

By: - August 9, 2023 4:45 pm
A grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

A grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. (Photo by Frank van Manen / USGS / Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 / Unedited)

Wildlife officers captured and euthanized a sow grizzly bear in Big Sky earlier this week that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said had gotten accustomed to human food after getting into garbage containers and a vehicle over the past several weeks.

The bear, a female between the ages of 3 and 5 that did not have cubs, was captured on Aug. 4 and then euthanized after consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, according to FWP spokesperson Morgan Jacobsen.

Jacobsen said after the bear got into unsecured bear-resistant trash containers and a vehicle and found food, electric fencing was put up but attempts to haze the bear out of the area were unsuccessful.

“It had become conditioned to seeking food from unnatural sources, which creates human safety risks,” he said in a news release.

FWP says bears that already are associated with human activity and food often continue to have ongoing conflicts as they attempt to return to those food sources even if relocated.

This is the second food-conditioned bear FWP has euthanized over the past month. A subadult male grizzly bear that FWP said had become food conditioned and was damaging boats and approaching people at Hungry Horse Reservoir was euthanized in July.

FWP has also warned people in Red Lodge of bears officers were hoping to capture and euthanize because they had also become habituated to human food and told people near Missoula last week to remain aware of bears amid an uptick in sightings in the area.

Grizzly and black bears are always searching for food in the summer and enter their hyperphagia phase as fall approaches, in which they eat thousands of calories per day in order to put on weight for the winter and hibernation.

FWP urges people living in bear country to secure their garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants in secure containers and buildings and bear-resistant containers, never to feed wildlife, travel in groups and carry bear spray to cut down on human-bear encounters.

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Blair Miller
Blair Miller

Blair Miller is a reporter based in Helena who primarily covers government, climate and courts. He's been a journalist for more than 12 years, previously based in Denver, Albuquerque and mid-Missouri.