Time to start thinking about bear conflicts

Justine Valieres
Justine Valieres, Wildlife Conflict Specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Region 1)

A note posted to Facebook this morning from our new Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Conflict Management Specialist, Justine Vallieres . . .

Hey North Forkers! I just wanted to pop in and do a quick introduction of myself. As most of you know, Tim Manley retired from FWP after 37 years of grizzly bear management. I was lucky enough to be his technician these last 4 years so I learned from the best! I applied this winter for the Wildlife Conflict Management Specialist position and was offered the position and started in March. So I will now be covering the North Fork. So if you have any mountain lion, black bear or grizzly bear conflicts please give me a call. My number is Tim’s old work cell which is 406-250-1265.

On another note, there have been a handful of reports from the North Fork area recently of grizzly sightings, some in yards. Please remember that if you do have a bear in your yard (black or grizz), please make them leave. This is so crucial that they learn that being around people and homes is not OK or safe. I know we all enjoy viewing wildlife, but it’s really important to remember that the more they hang around homes, the more comfortable they get, which can lead to habituation. We don’t want to give them the opportunity to snoop around and get into stuff, but we also do not want to create habituated bears where they are no longer wary of people. You personally may be tolerant of a bear in your yard, but other people may not be so tolerant, which could ultimately end up in the bear being hurt or killed.

So if you have bears in your yard, from a safe place, yell at them in a deep tone and tell them to move along. The human voice is the best deterrent, as we are “danger” to them. Bang pots and pans, set off car alarms, use air horns etc. Please refrain from shooting as we want to avoid any potential accidents and bears get used to hearing gunshots. If you have continuously tried to make a bear leave and it shows no interest in doing so please give me a call.

Thank you for helping keep the North Fork and its wildlife wild! I look forward to meeting many of you and seeing some familiar faces this season!

Joint NFLA/NFPA press release: Small Community Loses Grizzly Family

For Immediate Release: September 8, 2021
   Richard Hildner, NFLA President, richardhildner@icloud.com or
   Flannery Coats, NFPA President, flannery.e.coats@gmail.com

Small Community Loses Grizzly Family

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

Polebridge, Montana [September 8, 2021] – Bear #418, known to locals as Monica, was euthanized Saturday, September 4th along with her three female yearlings, after receiving a multitude of food rewards over the past week. Due to several incidents involving improper food and garbage storage within an eight-mile radius of the Polebridge townsite the bears were ultimately deemed food-conditioned. Monica had been a resident female grizzly bear in the North Fork Valley for 17 years.

In response, two local non-profits, the North Fork Landowners Association (nflandowners.org) and the North Fork Preservation Association (gravel.org), will be working together, along with agency partners, to help improve food and garbage storage in the area as well as to make financial aid resources from conservation organizations such as Defenders of Wildlife and Vital Ground more readily available to residents and business owners in the North Fork.

The North Fork community deeply grieves the loss of Monica and her cubs and in the coming months will explore new avenues to further educate and assist residents and visitors in how to live and recreate in bear country in a manner safe for both bears and humans.

Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 - W. K. Walker
Monica with three cubs, June 8, 2020 – W. K. Walker

Here’s the latest from Tim Manley on the tragic saga of Monica and her three cubs. It was posted to Facebook in the early morning hours of September 6th. Scroll to the end of this post for a photo gallery  . . .

Update on the grizzly bears… well, it was a difficult week. One that I would rather not repeat. I have read some of the comments and I understand everyone’s concerns and feelings. I think it is important to put a few things into context so everyone knows what transpired.

I am not going to mention names or locations but I think most people have heard about some of the locations where these incidents occurred. We tried to prevent further conflicts from occurring, but as you will see, this family group of bears were very food-conditioned and the property damage was extensive and knowing what they were going to do next was difficult to predict.

Continue reading Saga of Monica and her cubs ends tragically

Latest update on Monica and her three cubs

Monica in 2020

Tim Manley just posted an update to Facebook about Monica and her three cubs…

Just an update about this family group of grizzly bears.

I have been up the [North Fork] 3 times in the last 3 days and I will be up there again today.

In the past 5 days the female with 3 yearlings have gotten into two garbage cans two nights in a row. Those cans were replaced with working bear resistant Kodiak cans. The bears got into a trash trailer the next night and that has been replaced with a totally enclosed trailer. The next night they got into a pickup topper that had more than a camp stove. It had food and garbage in the truck. Last night they returned and tried to get into a different car with no garbage or food in it. They also went to another property and pushed on a trailer and were chased off by the landowner. They have been very persistent and not easy to get them to leave.

I am in the process of talking to landowners about a safe place to trap for this family group.

I am also reminding people to secure food and garbage in a way that these bears and others can’t get to it. Not in vehicles because unfortunately , this family group knows to check out cars.

Please notify me of any bear activity so I know where these and other bears are causing conflicts. Thanks.

My phone number is 250-1265 and email is Tim.manley@mt.gov

Updated food storage restrictions for Flathead National Forest

From the press release. (See also the official order, which is much more detailed and contains supporting material.)

Sow grizzly bear spotted near Camas in northwestern Montana. - Montana FWPKalispell, MT, July 19, 2021—The Flathead National Forest has updated the existing food storage restrictions for all Flathead National Forest lands outside of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and reminds the public to be bear aware.  The updated order can be found on the Flathead National Forest website. The intent of food storage restrictions is to reduce the likelihood of a bear getting into unsecured food and garbage.  Bears can become food conditioned if they receive a food reward.  Food conditioned bears can lead to an increase in conflicts between humans and bears, which compromises the safety of both.

The order requires all attractants to be stored in an acceptable manner when unattended.  Attractants can include, but are not limited to;

  • Human Food
  • Garbage
  • Pet Food
  • Livestock Feed

Acceptable methods of food storage include;

  • Secured in a hard-sided recreational vehicle, vehicle trunk, trailer cab, or dwelling
  • Suspended at least 10 feet up and four feet out from an upright support
  • Stored in an approved bear-resistant container
  • Stored within an approved and operating electric fence

As always, there is inherent risk to recreating in bear country and it is vital that everyone does their part to be Bear Aware and Recreate Responsibly.  It is often said, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”  Please don’t be responsible for a bear becoming conditioned by receiving human food rewards. For more information on approved bear-resistant containers please visit the Flathead National Forest website.