- Associated Press - Saturday, September 19, 2015

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Some grizzly and black bears are in lower elevation areas in northwest Montana in search of food that will carry them through the winter, state wildlife managers say.

Biologists for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks said Friday that bears are being seen in the Flathead, Swan and Tobacco valleys.

From mid-September until grizzly bears den during November is typically a busy time for bear conflict specialists, FWP officials say.

Both black and grizzly bears are looking for food that will provide them with the layer of fat they need in order to survive the winter in their dens, the biologists said.

Female grizzly bears with young are especially in need of additional food, because they have been nursing their cubs and need the extra calories, the Missoulian reported (http://bit.ly/1QOY86v ).

Out of the estimated population of 1,000 grizzly bears in northwest Montana, only 20 to 30 are involved throughout the area but they have caused some problems that required action by wildlife managers, FWP officials said.

Near Eureka, at least one young grizzly bear was seen feeding on apples and walking through yards, according to FWP. Traps were set for that bear, but it hasn’t been captured yet.

West of Fortine, landowners buried a dead horse and noticed something later dug it up. They put up a trail camera and three different grizzly bears were photographed at the site.

The horse was reburied and an electric fence was installed around the site, along with remote cameras. On Sept. 6, an unmarked, young adult male grizzly bear visited the site and was captured. This male was radio-collared and released in the Whitefish Range.

That same week, a grizzly bear was breaking branches on fruit trees west of Lake Blaine. A temporary electric fence was installed and a culvert trap was set. The male grizzly bear returned, but was not captured. The electric fence was effective in preventing any additional damage to the trees and the trap was removed.

Right after Labor Day, an adult male grizzly bear was captured near Coram after killing chickens and eating apples.

The 473-pound, 12- to 14-year-old adult male grizzly had never been captured before. He was radio-collared and relocated to the Puzzle Creek drainage south of Marias Pass. The electric fence on that chicken coop has been upgraded to be more effective in deterring bears.

On Sept. 9, a large male grizzly broke into a chicken coop near Ferndale. Electric fencing was put up to protect the remaining chickens. A culvert trap was set. The male grizzly returned, but it did not kill any more chickens. It also didn’t enter the culvert trap.

Two days later, an unmarked, adult female grizzly with a cub was captured. The cub was captured the next night and both bears were relocated to the Sullivan Creek drainage.

The trap was reset for the adult male, and the next night, a radio-collared female grizzly with two cubs was captured at the site. An attempt was made to capture both cubs, but was unsuccessful. To avoid separating the female and cubs, with the permission of the residents, the adult female was released on site during the night of Sept. 17.

The bears have not come into contact with people, but residents with fruit trees and poultry were advised to pick their fruit and make sure the electric fencing around their poultry was functioning properly.

In the North Fork of the Flathead, north of Polebridge, a female grizzly bear with a yearling killed some chickens and has had access to chicken feed and grain. Bear managers are working with local residents to secure attractants, and have installed electric fencing.

In the Swan Valley, a subadult female grizzly bear was hit and killed by a vehicle on Montana Highway 83 on Sept. 12, near the Condon Work Center. There had been reports of a grizzly bear feeding on road-killed deer just south of that area in previous weeks.

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Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com

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