Can We Live with Grizzlies?

A Grizzly comes to Red Lodge
Eleanor Guerrero
CCN Senior Reporter
Thursday, May 16, 2019
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Photo by Paul Schauer
This grizzly sow has been seen in woods around west Red Lodge without incident. Give her a wide berth or she will not be relocated but euthanized if trouble occurs.

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Photo by Emily Russell
This bear has been seen strolling through Remington Ranch during recent mornings.

You get up early and smell spring in the air and decide to take your dog for a walk or take your usual morning sprint around the block. It is your peace and quiet time and you appear to have the whole gorgeous Beartooths vista to yourself. Or so you may think, but this is Red Lodge.

Last Wednesday morning, May 8, Emily Russell was out by Remington Ranch near Airport Road around 8:30 a.m., when she spied a grizzly sow out on her morning outing too, strolling in front of her. 

Then another local said that a bruin (assumedly the same) was reportedly seen the following morning on Thursday, around the same time, by the LDS Church in south Red Lodge. She has now been seen by others in town.

This is the question and the test for locals: Can we live with grizzlies by leaving them alone? This bear has no bad history but with one relocation already there will not be another one. Locals love bears but we can love them to death. 

Be bear aware-despite appearances, you’re not necessarily the only one around anymore! Rumors have abounded about seeing grizzlies around town but none were heretofore confirmed. We knew they were in the area since as FWP biologist Shawn Stewart says, “Every drainage here has a grizzly.” 

We might have been lulled into security because they are quite elusive and their territory is so large on their circuit-up to 300 miles per sow and up to 500 miles per male. 

FWP Warden Matt Heaton says, “Local Fish Wildlife and Parks Warden and Biologists are aware of the recent grizzly bear sightings in the Remington Ranch and Mormon church areas. In both instances the bear was photographed in the early morning hours. It is reasonable to assume that it is the same bear in both situations. FWP could not find any evidence that the bear is getting into garbage or other sources of human foods, however the bear seems to be interested in something in the vicinity. Residents are reminded to be extra vigilant about attractants such as bird feeders, pet food and garbage.”

Red Lodgians, your behavior may determine whether this bear survives. Heaton warns, “A bear that is comfortable in locations such as this is not a candidate for translocation if conflicts arise, euthanasia is the only management tool should something like that come to pass. There have not been any negative incidents involving this bear, please help FWP keep this bear and the community safe, double check your properties for possible food attractants, remove bird feeders, do not feed pets outside, and secure all garbage.” 

Later Heaton said, “FWP has confirmed that the grizzly bear that has been spotted around Red Lodge recently is a tagged and collared bear. It is a female bear that was originally captured in Wyoming in 2017 as part of a research effort. The bear was moved from the Green River area in 2018 when she became too comfortable around some outfitter camps and was ultimately translocated to the Clarks Fork canyon in Wyoming. She then made her way north and denned in the upper West Fork. This bear had her first litter of two cubs in 2018. She lost one in early July and the other denned with her. FWP has not been able to determine if she still has her cub, and it appears that she likely lost her cub this winter.”

He noted, “This bear has NO history of aggression or depredation and was originally moved as a precaution for her safety as well as the outfitters.” 

Heaton made a plea for the bear’s life. “The bear is showing signs of habituation, thus making it all the more critical that we do all that we can to minimize the chances of conflict. Home owners in subdivisions around Red Lodge need to secure all possible attractants such as pet food, bird feeders and especially garbage. Do not approach any wildlife, when hiking, running and walking on trails, carry bear spray, leash pets, and where possible do not go alone or at dawn or dusk.” 

Grizzly bears are still a federally listed species. This means that the management authority for grizzlies rests with the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Do not look to FWP to make the decision without them. Heaton says, “Bears that are considered a threat to human safety are NOT moved.”

For questions and concerns please contact: FWP Game Warden Matthew Heaton (406) 860-7806; FWP Game Biologist Shawn Stewart (406) 446-4150; FWP Bear Technician Kylie Kembel (406) 850 –1131; Carbon County Sherriff Dispatch (406) 446-1234.” 

Now that you’ve got your bear spray on your hip, see the story below on the even more elusive mountain lions around town.