(GREAT FALLS) A male grizzly bear cub died after being hit by a train last week on the railroad tracks near Columbia Falls, according to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
BNSF Railway reported hitting a grizzly bear near North Hilltop Road on November 8. FWP responded and did not find any evidence of attractants at the site nor were there any additional bears involved in the crash. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service was notified of the death.
Two additional grizzly bears were identified as dead in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in the last month.
An adult female grizzly bear was found dead near Sullivan Creek southwest of Hungry Horse Reservoir. The bear was wearing a GPS radio collar that notified FWP of the mortality. FWP investigated the scene and determined the bear likely died of natural causes.
A separate adult female grizzly bear was found dead near Wildcat Creek west of Hungry Horse Reservoir. The bear was also wearing a GPS radio collar that notified FWP. Upon investigation, FWP determined the animal likely died of natural causes.
So far this year, 48 grizzly bear mortalities have been identified in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem due to a variety of circumstances, including management action, collisions, natural deaths and augmentation. Bears are classified as mortalities if they die, are taken to an accredited zoo or research facility if possible, are euthanized or are moved to another ecosystem. One-to-two bears are annually targeted for relocation to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem as part of an augmentation program.
The NCDE is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. The NCDE is a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.
FWP maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE. This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population, and notifying the public.
Bears are still seeking food sources before the winter denning season. Bears typically enter their dens by late November and early December and do no re-emerge until spring.
Residents and recreationists are urged to be “Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps and tips to prevent conflicts.
General tips to stay safe in bear country:
- Carry and know how to use bear pepper spray.
- Reduce or secure food attractants, such as garbage, livestock, and bird feeders.
- Stay alert and look for bear activity, especially where visibility and hearing is limited.
- Watch for signs of bears such as bear scat, diggings, torn-up logs and turned over rocks, and partly consumed animal carcasses.
- Make your presence known by making noise, especially when near streams or in thick forest where visibility is low. This can be the key to avoiding encounters. Most bears will avoid humans when they know humans are present.
- Use caution in areas like berry patches where bears occur.
- Avoid carcass sites and scavenger concentrations
- If you harvest an animal at dusk, be prepared to cut up the carcass in the dark by carrying strong headlamps. Be extra vigilant and watch for bears.
More safety information is available on the FWP website, fwp.mt.gov. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call (406) 752-5501.