By Myers Reece, 9-21-12
||Caption: Two grizzly bears are trapped east of Kalispell after being lured to close to residences by attractants. - Courtesy of FWP
Wildlife and city officials are asking people to secure their garbage and put away other attractants, such as fallen apples and bird feeders, to promote safety on behalf of both residents and bears.
As a reminder of the consequences bears often face after getting into food left out by humans, a recent press release from the Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial used the phrase: “a fed bear is a dead bear.” Dial is referring to euthanasia, which is often the fate of food-conditioned bears.
Within a two-week span in early September, two grizzly bears were captured in the Whitefish area after getting into human-derived food sources. A bear captured Sept. 5 along the Stillwater River near KM Ranch Road was euthanized due to its history of food-conditioned behavior, while a bear captured Sept. 15 just southeast of town was released into the Whitefish Range’s Whale Creek Drainage.
The 238-pound male grizzly that was euthanized had been getting into livestock feed, pet food, bird feeders, garbage and apples. The second grizzly, a 271-pound male, was feeding on unsecured garbage and fallen apples, according to Tim Manley, a grizzly bear management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
The garbage dumpster on the property where the bear was captured was replaced with a bear-resistant container. The grizzly was fitted with a GPS radio collar so biologists can follow its movements.
In Whitefish, city code requires residents who live north of the railroad to “secure their garbage containers in an area that is not accessible to bears,” Dial said. The chief added that bears generally visit town at night, so garbage containers should be transferred from their bear-proof storage to the street for collection no earlier than 4 a.m. and returned to the secure area no later than 7 p.m. the same day.
Bear-proof containers are available by contacting the Whitefish public works department at 863-2456. Residents who violate the bear ordinance face a fine up to $500.
“Additionally, residents are encouraged to keep pet food and bird feeders out of bear reach and to keep their yards free of fruit from fruit trees and vegetables as these too attract our furry neighbors,” Dial said.
“By no means should anyone attempt to feed bears,” he added. “Bears who frequent inhabited areas are usually euthanized. Let’s respect the bears and keep our community safe.”
The Swan Ecosystem Center, a nonprofit organization that operates out of the U.S. Forest Service Condon Work Center, notes that “fall is a busy time” for bear encounters as natural foods decrease and hungry bears are still feeding heartily before winter.
The nonprofit described three recent bear conflicts in the Swan Valley, including a black bear that has been frequenting Owl Packer Camp and munching on food from coolers. Another bear had broken into a shed and eaten grain, while another chewed on bear-resistant containers in Rumble Creek. The containers stayed closed.
The Swan Ecosystem Center encourages people to report bear conflicts to wildlife managers.
“Reporting of bear conflicts helps bear managers understand where bear problems are occurring and prioritize their efforts,” the organization said.
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