Grizzly bear euthanized after becoming food conditioned in Big Sky
Unsecured attractants create human safety risks
August 16, 2023
A grizzly bear was captured and euthanized earlier this month after repeatedly seeking and accessing unsecured attractants in Big Sky.
Over the course of several weeks, the bear became accustomed to accessing garbage stored in bear-resistant containers that were not secured. The bear also found unsecured food in a vehicle. Attempts to haze the bear after attractants were stored properly and secured with electric fencing were unsuccessful.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff captured the bear on Aug. 4. In consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, FWP euthanized the bear on Aug. 6 because it had become conditioned to seeking food from unnatural sources, which creates human safety risks. The bear was a female grizzly without cubs, estimated to be between 3 and 5 years old.
Unsecured attractants, such as garbage and bird feeders, can lead to human safety risks and property damage from bears. Relocating bears that have associated human activity with food usually leads to further conflicts and safety risks because bears often return to the same area where they were captured to look for food. Unfortunately, bears in these situations can't be rehabilitated.
Montana is bear country. Grizzly bear numbers continue to increase, and grizzlies are becoming more widespread in Montana, increasing the likelihood that residents and recreationists will encounter them in more places each year. Bears also become more active in late summer and fall as they spend more time eating in preparation for hibernation.
Avoiding conflicts with bears is easier than dealing with such conflicts. Here are some precautions to help residents, recreationists and people who work outdoors avoid negative bear encounters:
• Keep garbage, bird feeders, pet food and other attractants put away in a secure building or certified bear-resistant container. Keep garbage in a secure building until the day it is collected. Certified bear-resistant garbage containers are available in many areas.
• Never feed wildlife. Bears that become food conditioned lose their natural foraging behavior and pose threats to human safety. It is illegal to feed bears in Montana.
• Carry bear spray and be prepared to use it immediately.
• Travel in groups whenever possible and make casual noise, which can help alert bears to your presence.
• Stay away from animal carcasses, which often attract bears.
• Follow food storage orders from the applicable land management agency.
• If you encounter a bear, never approach it. Leave the area when it is safe to do so.
Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Management authority for grizzlies rests with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, working closely in Montana with FWP, the Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Geological Survey, Wildlife Services and Native American tribes. This collaboration happens through the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.
For more information and resources on bear safety, visit fwp.mt.gov/conservation/wildlife-management/bear.