A black bear was euthanized this week after multiple conflicts with humans and livestock in Bozeman.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks was first notified of the 2-year-old male bear on June 28 when it was seen at a Bozeman residence in the middle of the day. Additional reports followed July 2 when the bear was seen in other residential areas along Bridger Drive and Hillside Lane.
On July 5, a homeowner found the bear chasing goats and chickens in a pen. Montana law allows property owners to kill predators found in the act of pursuing livestock. The homeowner shot at the bear, and the bear left.
During the day Tuesday the bear visited a residence in the Story Hills area, where it was on a deck and at the back door of the house. Residents there attempted to chase it off and deter it with rubber slugs, but the bear did not leave.
FWP biologists set traps and made repeated attempts to capture the bear as its presence was reported. Photos, videos and descriptions from witnesses indicate the same bear was involved in each incident.
Additional reports came on Thursday as the bear was seen on Haggerty Lane and, later, following a woman who was walking two dogs in Lindley Park. The bear was eventually darted and captured that day along Bozeman Creek with help from the Bozeman Police Department and Animal Control Officers.
FWP’s bear management policies guide the agency’s actions in dealing with captured bears. In this case, the bear was clearly habituated to receiving food rewards in urban areas and undeterred by humans, posing risks to property and public safety. Based on these factors, FWP decided to euthanize the bear.
“This is a sad news story with an all-too-common, sad ending,” said Mark Deleray, FWP’s regional supervisor in Bozeman. “At Fish, Wildlife and Parks, we manage for wildlife — the key word being wild. Unfortunately, this bear was habituated, received food rewards, attacked livestock, and showed no fear of humans. In these cases, we have no choice but to remove the bear.”
Bear captures in urban areas are not uncommon in southwest Montana. So far this year FWP has captured five bears in Gallatin County. Most of those bears were relocated. While the circumstances of any bear capture can vary, food rewards from humans are a common factor. The bear trapped this week, for example, frequented homes with bird feeders.
“Our goal is to keep wildlife in the wild,” Deleray said. “In today’s world it is getting harder to do so as our urban interface with wildlife expands. It is very difficult to control wild animal behavior, but we have a better chance of modifying human behavior to reduce conflicts with wildlife.”
State statute prohibits people from intentionally feeding wildlife, and doing so is a citable offense. Bears habituated to unsecured food sources from humans can pose repeated threats to human safety and property throughout communities.
Residents can help eliminate the need to relocate or destroy bears by securing feed, garbage, and other attractants. The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has compiled resources for reducing conflicts with bears, both in the wild and in urban areas. To learn more, log on to IGBConline.org.