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Moving east

This subadult grizzly bear was observed three miles west of Interstate 15 off the Bullhead Road, south of Shelby, on April 7.

About 175 miles east of the Rocky Mountain Front in the community of Havre the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is hosting a public meeting regarding prairie grizzly bear awareness.

The meeting, designed to educate residents about how to minimize conflict, will be held on April 25 at 7 p.m. at Hensler Auditorium in the Applied Technology Center on the MSU-Northern campus. The event is open to the public, and all ages are welcome.

Grizzly bear populations continue to expand, in some cases into areas they have not occupied for decades. Management challenges and conflicts have increased. FWP, along with partner agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, work together to respond to conflicts as they occur. However, the situation has become increasingly complex as bears move into areas of Montana outside of existing recovery zones, such as the Big Hole Valley, Little Belt Mountains, and the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

At this public meeting FWP bear management specialist Wesley Sarmento will present a background on grizzly bears in Montana, how the department manages grizzly bear conflict, and the challenges of grizzly expansion on the prairies east of the Rocky Mountain Front.

In addition, Sarmento will explain what to do during a bear encounter, how to use bear spray, how to protect harvested game meat, how to safely deter a bear using nonlethal tools, and how to secure attractants and prevent a bear from being drawn into agricultural operations and residences.

FWP encourages landowners, hunters, and any outdoor recreationists to attend. 

Montana is home, in whole or in part, to four grizzly bear recovery zones designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem; the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem; the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem; and the Bitterroot Ecosystem. While grizzly bear numbers have surpassed recovery objectives in the GYE and NCDE, they have yet to reach recovery levels in the Cabinet-Yaak and Bitterroot.

Grizzly bears in the lower 48 states are officially under the jurisdiction of the USFWS, but much of the day-to-day management of bears in Montana is done by FWP in partnership and with oversight of the USFWS.

The USFWS delisted the GYE grizzly bear population under the Endangered Species Act in 2017, but a federal court decision last fall relisted the population. This delayed the delisting process for the NCDE and resulted in an appeal of the GYE decision by the state of Montana and others.

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