A young grizzly bear with a hankering for lamb was captured near Flescher Pass last week and relocated — aptly enough — to the Great Bear Wilderness Area.
Jamie Jonkel, a bear specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said the 350-pound male was snared by federal agents with Wildlife Services on Aug. 1 after it killed two domestic lambs southeast of Lincoln. Since it was his first offense, he was captured, collared and released.
“Wildlife Services set a trap right on the carcass; I think the bear was just uphill when they set the snares,” Jonkel said on Friday. “Since they’re an endangered species, we follow certain protocol. So we came in, tranquilized him and put a collar on him.
“Then we gave him a day of rest with air conditioning and a lot of ice, made sure he was OK and relocated him in the Flathead National Forest.”
He added that while the bear was a little on the lean side, it appeared to be healthy. The berry crop west of the Continental Divide is in pretty good shape, so Jonkel said they hope the bear will regain its focus on natural food sources.
As the grizzly bear population increases, they’re expanding their ranges and Jonkel said people need to be aware of potential encounters.
“Helena is right on the edge, like Missoula, for bears,” Jonkel said. “Prickly Pear Creek, Nevada Mountain, Elliston, Avon, Wolf Creek — it’s slow progress but wherever there’s berries and good habitat, you might find them.”
He urges people to remove outdoor items like bird feeders and dog food so that both grizzly and black bears don’t get in trouble. People also are encouraged to put electric fences around chicken coops, gardens and barns to reduce conflicts.
Jonkel noted that funding for measures to avoid bear conflicts sometimes is available through the Defenders of Wildlife, which administers The Bailey Wildlife Foundation Proactive Carnivore Conservation Fund. For more information on that, contact Defenders at 549-4103.