MISSOULA – Wildlife managers wrestling with the growing grizzly population along the Northern Continental Divide are discussing ways to expand public education to cut down on bear conflicts, teaching people to live with the big bears.
That was one of the topics as the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee held its annual winter meeting in Missoula.
While wildlife agencies are still grappling with court rulings impacting Yellowstone grizzlies, there’s increasing focus on the bears filtering out from the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Glacier National Park and other areas along the Northern Divide.
Bears are starting to become a regular presence miles into the prairie along the Rocky Mountain Front, and in the Flathead and Mission valleys.
Although removing them from federal protection could happen soon, in the meantime conflicts are growing, with the number of grizzly mortalities related to people hitting a record this season.
Committee members are expanding efforts to reduce conflicts, such as asking the Montana Department of Transportation to help with bears crossing highways. But the managers say the key is expanding public education, which is still an emerging effort.
“Certainly there have been additions on the east side that have made a difference. But again, is it enough? Is it keeping up with the numbers and the sort of expansion that’s going on? Not sure how we wrap our heads around that,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent and NCDE Chair Jeff Mow.
Wildlife managers say the latest issue is that more human and grizzly conflicts are happening not just on public lands, but more private properties.
Story by Dennis Bragg, MTN News