Memo to hunters: Griz could be anywhere in Western Montana
The bottom line: Hunters in Montana’s western half should be prepared to encounter grizzly bears, even if grizzlies aren’t known to customarily inhabit the areas where hunters plan to pursue big game or birds.
That’s the word from the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks in the wake of a grizzly killing a calf earlier this week on a ranch north of Two Dot, about 140 miles southeast of Great Falls.
“Grizzly bears are expanding their range in Montana and although they aren’t common in the mountains around Two Dot - the Little Belts, Crazies and Snowies - populations are expanding out from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in all directions,” Fish, Wildlife and Parks said in a news release issued Friday.
Dispersing bears can roam many miles, the agency said. The state agency is investigating the calf killing, trying to find either hair or scat from the bear for DNA analysis that could identify the population of bears from which it dispersed.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services, which responds to any livestock depredation, tried unsuccessfully to capture the grizzly culprit earlier this week.
Meanwhile, hunters should be “bear aware,” the agency said, by being on the lookout for bear activity and sign and being equipped with bear spray. Hunters also should have at least one companion and let people know about their plans and intended destinations, the state agency said.
Grizzly bears are a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act and killing or harming the bears is illegal unless such action occurs in an act of self defense.
Wildlife officials reminded hunters that mountain lions are also pursuing prey at this time of year and are most active at dawn and dusk.