Justine Vallieres: Dealing with “problem” bears

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWP
Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. – Montana FWP

A heartfelt note from Justine Vallieres, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bear Manager for Region 1 (initially posted to Facebook) . . .

As many of you may now know, I ended up catching the sow and cub that had been breaking into cabins and garages in the Moose City/Trail Creek/Ford Cabin area. The decision to remove bears is always a hard and gut wrenching one, but with these bears there was sadly no other option. First off I want to say that no one in the North Fork was in the wrong in these conflicts. People did not leave out attractants; this bear was only breaking into enclosures so please be gentle with each other.

These situations drive me to do better as a bear specialist, to do more education, continue to build better and closer relationships with landowners and do as much preventative work as I can. Each bears death is not in vain, and as each passes I promise I’ll try harder, and try to do better. I’m grateful to the North Forkers for being able to live amongst the bears so well. Thank you for doing your part. My hope is that other communities will follow suit someday.

One thing I still ask is that you call me as soon as you experience any type of conflicts as the sooner I know about it the sooner I can try and get ahead of the problem so it doesn’t escalate beyond the point of no return. By not calling in conflicts it does the bears a huge disservice. So please call. I’m not here to pass judgement or shame you, I just want to help you and help the bears. Please don’t point fingers or shame each other if conflicts occur, especially in this instance no one did anything wrong. Unfortunately this bear was too far gone from her previous history and crossing boundaries by breaking into buildings. When I caught her at the beginning of August there was so implication that she was breaking into enclosures so things either escalated or people were not calling in conflicts.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Thank you.

Justine can be reached at justinevall8@gmail.com or 406-250-1265.