Grizzly bears have rebounded since their endangered species listing in 1975 and in this week’s outdoor report, Winston Greely reports how bear managers are seeing grizzly bears looking to head home to the prairie.
This spring, bear specialist Mike Madel has been amazed at the amount of grizzlies heading east from the Rocky Mountain front.
"This is probably the spring of all springs in terms of grizzly bear movements out onto the high plains and the river bottoms," Madel said. "I have never seen as many sub-adults way down the Marias River, down the Teton, Muddy Creek."
Grizzlies historically roamed eastern Montana’s prairie, but in the last century diminished to smaller more mountainous areas of Montana. Now as state and federal conservation efforts have greatly improved the bear’s numbers, the grizzly is looking to return home to the prairie.
"You have an expanding grizzly bear population that are just moving out further and further east and the further east they go just the more private land it is," Madel said. Fish, Wildlife and Parks works with landowners, like installing electric fencing, to help prevent grizzly bear conflicts. "The real solution is not removing bears, it’s implementing prevention."
As these grizzlies journey further and further into their ancestral home, it will be important for people to learn how to live with the grizzly. "You really do hope you can continue to keep up with the tide, inform and educate not to be putting cat food/dog food out on their deck at night, think about when you can feed birds, think about your grill out on the deck, putting away livestock feed those kind of things."
FWP is working to remove the grizzly from the federal Endangered Species List, which will provide the state more flexibility in managing the bear. But Montanans will also have to do their part to coexist with the grizzly.
Bear managers estimate more than 1000 grizzlies live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.