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Orphaned Montana grizzly cubs headed to wildlife sanctuary

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Posted at 2:17 PM, Jul 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-31 12:47:54-04

KALISPELL - A pair of grizzly bear cubs orphaned in Northwest Montana are headed to a new home.

State wildlife officials say a pair of orphaned grizzly bear cubs to a wildlife sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

FWP captured an adult female grizzly bear and its two cubs near Lupfer Meadows north of Whitefish on July 10. The bear was previously captured in 2020 and moved to Glacier National Park after getting into unsecured garbage and chicken coops in the Columbia Falls area.

According to a news release, FWP has received numerous reports over the past two years of the adult female breaking into sheds seeking unnatural food sources, including garbage, domestic rabbits, and livestock feed in the Olney area.

Bear specialists actively tried to capture the adult female last year but were unsuccessful. This spring, FWP received reports of the bear getting into garbage, and partially tore open a residential garage door, displaying the bear’s escalating efforts to find unnatural food sources.

FWP officials say after consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service it was determined it was necessary to euthanize the adult female because of severe food conditioning, which occurs when an animal loses its natural foraging behavior and continues to seek unnatural food sources, creating a public safety risk.

FWP captured the adult female’s two cubs and transported them to the FWP Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Helena for temporary placement.

Both cubs will be going to Rivendale Wildlife Sanctuary 20 miles outside Pittsburgh which provides lifelong homes for orphaned or rescued animals while promoting conservation through education and research. The facility is accredited by the Zoological Association of America and recently built bear enclosures that will house the Montana cubs, according to FWP.

“While we’re grateful that the Rivendale Wildlife Sanctuary had the appropriate space and accepted these two cubs for permanent placement, we’d much rather see them in the wild avoiding conflict with humans,” said Lee Anderson, Region 1 supervisor in Kalispell. “I can’t stress enough the importance of securing food attractants in bear country, it will keep people safe and bears wild.”

Additionally, on July 10, FWP captured a pair of male grizzly bears north of Columbia Falls in the Blankenship area. The bears, estimated to be 2½-to3½ years old each, were both previously caught in conflicts in the Flathead Valley after getting into garbage, outdoor freezers, and chicken coops.

Most recently, FWP received numerous reports of the bears getting into chicken coops and garbage in the Coram area. Due to the bears being severely food conditioned, the decision was made to euthanize both bears on July 11 in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“We appreciate residents reporting these conflicts to FWP bear managers because we need to hear about these conflicts as soon as they occur to try and address the situation before it worsens,” Anderson said.

Montana is bear country. Preventing a conflict is easier than dealing with one.

  • Bear spray is a highly effective, non-lethal bear deterrent. Carry EPA-approved bear spray and know how to use it.
  • Remove or secure food attractants. Bear-resistant containers and a properly constructed electrified fence are proven effective at deterring bears.
  • Don’t let bears linger in your yard or in close proximity to home or other structures because this can lead to habituation. Call an FWP specialist to help deter bears if you are not comfortable or able to do so. 
  • If you see a bear near your residence or need to report a conflict, please call your local FWP bear specialist: https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/contact.
  • Loud noise, such as banging pots and pans, using an air horn or your car alarm, or shouting, is an effective way to deter a bear on private property.
  • Notify your neighbors if you do observe a bear in the area to help make others aware.
  • Never feed wildlife, especially bears. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose a threat to human safety. And it is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
  • Always keep a safe distance from wildlife. Never approach a bear.
  • Learn more at https://fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.