Since 1999 the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation has raised more than a million dollars for grizzly bear management, research and conservation in Montana. This year (2012) is the sixth year which the Foundation has provided critical funding for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ Cabinet-Yaak Grizzly Bear Augmentation Project.
While grizzly bear populations in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide (NCDE) areas appear to being doing well, the same cannot be said for the Cabinet and Yaak River areas of extreme northwestern Montana. The somewhat isolated Cabinet Mountains is a particular area of concern for Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department (FWP). Under the guidelines of the new FWP Grizzly Bear Management Plan, young female grizzly bears from the NCDE are being trapped and transplanted to the Cabinet Mountains to bolster the reproductive segment of that Montana grizzly bear population.
This important work is very difficult as biologists are targeting 3-6 year old females with no history of conflict. This kind of effort requires a concentrated trapping attempt in key productive areas of grizzly bear habitat north and east of the Flathead Valley.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation is making this effort possible by gifting $25,000 to the project during 2007 , $45,000 during 2008 and $100,000 for 2009 and 2010. The 2011 grizzly bear augmentation program was funded by the Foundation as is the 2012 project.
This generous financial support funds hire trained grizzly bear management specialists, to assist FWP with this effort. “Without the Foundation’s support this augmentation program would not be possible”, says Tim Manley, FWP’s grizzly bear management specialist. Manley added that “our bear management specialists have worked on grizzly bear conflict and management for a number of years in northwest Montana and bring a unique set of qualifications to Montana’s bear program”.
Montana FWP Technician, Lindsey Stutzman, with a sub adult grizzly bear which was trapped as part of the 2011 Grizzly Bear Augmentation and Conflict Management Project.
Photo by Be Still Photography
The goal of this project is to move 2 or 3 female grizzly bears per year to the Cabinet Mountains until monitoring efforts indicate that the population is wither stable or increasing. In the past five years we have moves suitable male bears as well to add to the Cabinet-Yaak population. Eventually it is FWP’s hope that the grizzly bears in the Cabinet Mountains will eventually be interacting with grizzlies from the Yaak, Purcell, Selkirk and the NCDE areas as one large recovered bear population.
This project is part of a larger on-going effort of Montana Fish,Wildlife and Parks to reduce or eliminate the availability of garbage to wildlife, particularly grizzly bears, at public waste transfer stations and residences within the Cabinet-Yaak grizzly bear recovery area. The overall goal is to reduce unnecessary human-caused grizzly bear mortalities, and increase public awareness and tolerance for living with grizzly bears.
To that end, newly developed, fully automated, bear-resistant garbage containers were purchased for use by residents in Lincoln and Sanders Counties. The Libby area Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) conflict specialist has an active program for loaning out containers to residences in both counties. These new containers will be used to promote the securing of residential garbage in locations that have commercial garbage collection, thereby gaining buy-in by commercial garbage haulers and residents alike.
Sanders County, Montana, is in the process of redesigning and constructing a bear-resistant public waste transfer site near Noxon, Montana. The current waste transfer sites fence is dilapidated and being repaired. Once completed, electric fencing lines will be placed on the outside of the chain linked fence to secure the site from being accessed by bears and other wildlife. Once the site is completed, the new design will be promoted via the local newspaper and signage placed at the transfer site listing funding, supporters and project partners. This portion of the project is expected to be fully completed during the summer/fall of 2014.
The greatest challenge in this project was coordinating long-term and large scale projects between multiple governmental and non-governmental agencies can be challenging. Key lessons learned are to keep lines of communication open at all times and to work toward the large, overall goal, without letting the smaller, day-to-day details stand in the way.
This project addresses key Y2Y goals related to wildlife mortality reduction and promotes human coexistence with wildlife. Electrifying and securing human-related waste will prevent wildlife from obtaining garbage that might habituate them to humans and precipitate their later removal for human safety purposes. Providing funding for this project gains respect and partnership from local communities and community leaders that are attempting to balance numerous fiscal demands. Signage at public waste transfer sites can affect community attitudes towards securing sanitation around their own homes and their relationship with wildlife conflicts.
You can make a difference by contributing to important projects like this!
Click here to make an on-line donation to this important project today!
Or please send your tax-deductible donation TODAY to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Foundation, PO Box 200701, Helena MT 59620-0701, or call us for more information at 406-444-6759. Thank you!
Click on the following thumbnail/links to see the Grizzly Bear Augmentation Reports
Blog 1- May 10, 2012
Welcome to the Grizzly Bear Augmentation/ Management blog! I am so excited to share the work we are doing in the 2012 summer field season with you all. Let me start by introducing myself to give you some background on the project.
I am the Grizzly Bear Management Technician for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) Region 1 based out of Kalispell. I am a recent graduate from Montana State University where I received a degree in Fish and Wildlife Management. As an undergraduate I worked for FWP as an intern for three years on species such as Common loons, grizzly bears, and a wide array of nongame species. Upon graduation I was hired into my current position assisting with bear management as well as the Grizzly Bear Augmentation project.
I work with a great group of bear biologists at FWP who all contribute to the augmentation project. First off is Tim Manley, he is the region 1 Grizzly Bear Management Biologist. Tim has been working on bears for over 20 years and has made one of the largest impacts on bear management in the world. He has headed up the augmentation project since 2005. We also work closely with Rick Mace who heads up the Grizzly Bear Trend project, Lori Roberts- Trend Project assistant, Logan Degenhardt- Grizzly bear Trend Technician, Kim Annis- bear management out of Libby, MT, Erik Wenum- Black Bear Management Specialist, and Kylie Jones- Black Bear Management Technician. We also work closely with Wayne Kasworm and Tom Radandt with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. All of these people play a huge role in making the augmentation project possible. It is because of all their hard work that is has been successful in past years.
After a long Montana winter the bears are all beginning to wake up and emerge from their dens. Some of the female bears that went into the dens alone are now coming out with new cubs of the year. Tim and I along with our pilot Jim pierce have been conducting helicopter flights to get visuals on our radio collared bears to confirm numbers of cubs with females. This year we have quite a few females with cubs, most of which are cubs of the year. Grizzly bears keep their cubs with them until they are two years old. The females kick their cubs off in the spring after they come out of the den. Females then breed and spend the rest of the summer as solitary animals. The next year they commonly have a new litter of cubs.
So far the bears have been behaving for the most part. We have had one grizzly and one black bear management capture; both of which were north of Columbia falls. The bears were both relocated into the Whitefish Range. Other than that we haven’t had much going on in the way of management calls! We are just preparing for when the calls pick up. We will begin augmentation trapping in June once the snow melts and the roads become more accessible.
Blog 2- May 18, 2012
It’s been a beary busy week!
Tim and I went on a radio tracking flight with our pilot Jim Pierce on Monday to get visuals on the remaining females that we hadn’t seen. It was a very successful flight and we were able to get visuals on a total of 20 grizzly bears including cubs. After we landed we had a call about a young grizzly bear in the Ferndale area that had been seen eating clover in yards. He was hanging around close to homes and even showing himself in broad daylight. We brought a trap down and set it that afternoon. About an hour after we left we got an email from the landowner that the bear was back and shortly after that the bear was captured. The next day we drugged and radio collared the bear. He was then released down the South Fork later that day after he fully recovered.
Wednesday morning we got a call about two young bears in the Echo Lake area that had broken into a chicken coop and killed 8 chickens. There was just one lone rooster remaining. We brought down two culvert traps to set. While we were setting we looked up and saw that the two young bears were curiously checking out what we were doing. They were a little too close for comfort so we yelled at them to scare them off and we continued to set the traps. We got a video which we posted earlier in the week of these two bears coming into the trap site. That evening we captured both bears. The next morning we collared the two bears and put them both into the family trap so that we could bring them to their release sites in the same trap. They spent the day recovering and were kicked loose later that evening down the South Fork.
We recommend that anyone living in bear country that has chickens gets an electric fence to prevent bears from killing the chickens. This is a very effective way to protect your chickens and there are even incentive programs to offset the costs of the fencing. If you want more information there will be an electric fencing workshop on Tuesday, May 22nd at the Hungry Horse Forest Service office from 5pm- 7pm.
Blog 3- May 27, 2012
This week we welcomed a new member to our team, Danielle Strahl. She just completed her second year of vet school and she is going to be volunteering with us for the next two months. We are very excited to have her!
We started out the week by meeting up with a group of students visiting Montana from Texas. We brought them up the North Fork of the Flathead where we taught them about the local ecology of the area and how to radio track bears. We also introduced them to the legendary baked goods at the Polebridge Mercantile.
We received multiple bear calls during the week and by weeks end we had 4 traps out. We are running them all through the weekend. We will see if we catch the perpetrators!
At one of the sites where we set a trap we helped the landowners set up an electric fencing system to protect his goats. We also set up a “Critter Gitter” on the chicken coop to scare the bear away if it tries to break in. a Critter Gitter is a motion activated noise maker that was originally created to scare deer out of gardens.
Hopefully in the upcoming week we will catch the bears at large!
Blog 4- June 1, 2012
It’s shaping up to be the year of terrible two’s! We captured two two-year old bears this week making a total of five two year olds so far this season!
The first bear that we captured was a female who we refer to as Little Linda. We originally captured her last year as a yearling with her brother Little Joe. The two of them were running around Coram with their mother Cora who was teaching them some very bad habits. We set a trap to catch the whole family group in order to move them into a better area away from people. Within the first few days we were able to catch both of the cubs, however, Cora seemingly disappeared. With her disappearance we made the decision to take a chance and move the yearlings without their mom down to spotted bear. We figured that if they weren’t with their mom they would have a better chance because they wouldn’t have their mom teaching them bad habits. Both Joe and Linda stayed at spotted bear all summer and into the fall. Joe dropped his ear tag transmitter so we currently don’t know where he is. Little Linda however showed up in the spotted bear horse corral. We chased her out of the area with the helicopter but she soon returned to the area. We ended up setting a trap and catching her the next week! She was in good shape and weighed 115 lbs. We released her 16 miles away.
The second bear we captured this week was a young male in the lower North Fork area. He was 169 lbs and also in good shape. He was released in the whitefish range.
Hopefully in the next few days we will be getting a flight in to get some current locations on the bears. More excitement to come!
Blog 5- June 10, 2012
It was a very eventful week! We started out the week with a very successful telemetry flight. We saw a total of 21 bears and we successfully retrieved a dropped radio collar out of a bear den! The radio collar had gone onto a mortality signal which means that the collar has not moved for a certain period of time. This can sometimes mean a dead bear but luckily this time the bear had just slipped the collar off over its head. We landed the helicopter and walked down to the den where the collar was conveniently laying right at the opening. We checked out the den and it was really cool! The bear had moved quite a bit of rock to dig into the side of the mountain.
Danielle and I also retrieved another dropped collar north of Olney. Luckily the bear dropped it in an easily accessible location so we were able to walk in in just part of a day.
We also had two captures this week. Once again both of the bears were two year olds! We released one of the bears down the South Fork and the other up near Marias Pass.
Things finally slowed down and we were all able to take a full weekend off after working through last weekend! Very exciting.
Blog 6- June 21, 2012
We had our ninth capture this week! He is a bear that we have been trying to capture for the last month in the Essex area. He had been seen grazing on clover and walking around in developed areas in broad daylight. Tim Manley set the trap earlier in the week when he received a call that the bear had been eating clover in a homeowner’s front yard. On Wednesday Danielle and I went up to the site to rebait the trap and to our surprise the bear had been captured! The homeowner said that the bear had been captured about an hour before we got there.
The next day we brought the bear to Glacier National Park to work up. Rangers Chuck Cameron, Gary Moses, and Rachel Jenkins helped us radio collar the bear. Once we drugged him we ran a microchip reader behind his ear and confirmed that the bear was in fact a young male we captured earlier this year in the Flathead Valley.
Once he recovered we brought him down the South Fork to release him in a safe spot away from people. Amy Macleod and members of the bear DNA crew came along on the release. We opened the trap door remotely from the truck with a remote controlled winch and he came out. He hung around for a little while and then I shot some cracker shells and he ran off.
On Saturday Tim and I went on a radio tracking flight with Jim Pierce. We got locations on our bears in the Middle and South forks. To our surprise one of our female management bears has moved from Spotted bear all the way to east of Marias pass! It really is amazing how far bears can move. On Monday Danielle and I retrieved a dropped radio collar along Hungry Horse Reservoir. It came off of a bear that was originally captured as a two year old and who has managed to stay out of trouble for the most part since then.
We are beginning to augmentation trap this week! She snow is finally melting up high and we are beginning to scout out spots to trap. More to come!
Blog 7- July 21, 2012
It has been a a very busy couple of weeks!
We have continued to run our Augmentation trap line in the Whitefish Range. We captured a two year old male to move over to the Cabinet Mountains and we are still looking for two young females to bring over. While trapping we caught a female with two cubs who was not a suitable candidate for the augmentation program but a great bear to collar for the population trend project. We captured her on 4th of July so she is now called “liberty bear”. Since we initially captured her she has returned to the site numerous times and we recaptured her. Luckily we are trapping with culvert traps so we could just open the door and let her out without drugging her. We have also captured numerous black bears who we released on site.
Last week we had our Grizzly Bear Rendezvous at Jack Hanna’s farm! It was a great evening with great people all coming together to support grizzly bears. It was also a really great chance for us to get to meet some of the folks who are supporting the foundation.
Our Volunteer Danielle went home to Illinois yesterday.It was great to have her out here and we will miss her! We did however gain a new member to our team; our intern Nicole. We are super excited to have her start!
We will continue trapping this week and we will keep our fingers crossed for some young female grizzlies!*Donate to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Foundation