LOLO - State wildlife officials have captured and relocated a pair of grizzly bears that had been roaming near homes between Lolo and Florence.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks reports the two sub-adult grizzly bears were moved earlier this week to a remote spot in the nearby Sapphire Mountains.
The pair had been spending time in the northern Bitterroot since early August when they first moved south from the Blackfoot Valley, across the Sapphire Mountains, and then into an area south of Lolo.
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FWP notes that although the bears had not yet been in conflict with attractants or people, they were spending time near garbage, fruit trees and livestock food in recent weeks.
A news release states that "in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS), FWP trapped, radio-collared and then relocated the bears to a remote area on the edge of the Welcome Creek Wilderness in the Sapphire Mountains."
Both bears were 2 years old, and one was a 230-pound male and the other a 172-pound female, likely siblings, according to FWP.
Two years old is a natural time for some bears to begin venturing out and exploring new territory, and FWP bear specialist, Jamie Jonkel, said this pair’s activity in the Bitterroot is a reminder of the bears’ natural expansion.
Although grizzly bears don’t inhabit the Bitterroot Valley in numbers like they do in many other parts of western Montana, grizzlies are moving into more places as they travel and activity has steadily increased over the past 10 years in the Bitterroot Valley.
“This is the time of year when more bears visit the valley bottoms in search of food and are often tempted by the attractants we have around our homes,” Jonkel said. “This year has been especially tough for bear conflicts, as there was a shortage of berries and other natural bear foods in many places.”
Black and grizzly bears are found throughout much of the western half of Montana with FWP noting it's important to keep the areas around homes free from bear attractants. FWP advises the following steps be taken around homes:
- Be sure to keep garbage indoors until the day of collection
- Remove bird feeders when bears are out and active
- Consider using electric fencing around chickens, garden areas and compost piles
- Move other attractants such as pet food, dirty barbecue grills and ripe fruit indoors or into a secure building.
People who see a bear or signs near residences that may result in a conflict should call a local bear specialist at the contact number found on FWP’s website. FWP also has additional information about how to "be bear aware" at fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear/be-bear-aware.