State wants a minimum of 800 grizzly bears in the region

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A grizzly bear feeds on whatever it found under this stump in this file photo. (Chris Peterson photo)

The Montana Fish and Wildlife commissioners last week adopted a preliminary conservation plan for grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem that looks at maintaining a population of at least 800 bears.

Currently, there are about 1,000 bears in the NCDE, which stretches from the Canada border along the continental divide to Ovando.

The NCDE includes all of Glacier Park and Bob Marshall Wilderness complex.

While the minimum number of bears is set at 800, the strategy claims that in essence, it will be maintaining at least 1,000 bears even after their delisted from the Endangered Species Act, a move that’s expected later this year.

“Given the commitment to incorporate all forms of uncertainty into the population modeling, this objective necessitates maintaining an actual population size that is likely closer to 1,000 bears, and an even higher population size should uncertainty increase,” the strategy document notes.

In order maintain the 800 number with a 90 percent certainty, the state would have to effectively manage for 1,000 bears, FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish noted.

Not all the bears would be managed by the state, however. The tribes and the federal government would manage bears as well.

Glacier Park, for example, has about 300 grizzlies roaming its 1-million acre preserve. The Park does not allow hunting and manages bears within its boundaries. In most years, it has little, if any, human caused mortality.

The tribes would manage their bear populations as well.

Outside the protections of the Park, grizzlies face a host of issues, from run-ins with hunters, to collisions with vehicles. Bears also get into a lot of trouble on private property, where they eat livestock, crops, fruit trees and will dine on garbage and pets if they’re not secured.

Once bears are delisted, the state could also institute a limited hunting season for bears, though that’s a move opposed by members of the tribes, who consider the animal sacred and oppose trophy hunting of grizzlies.

If the state instituted a hunt, the commission would have to approve the measure and deaths from hunting would count against the allowable annual mortality of bears.

The comment period on the rule will run from Aug. 24 to Oct. 26 with a public hearing on the population plan Sept. 27 at 6 p.m. at the Flathead Valley Community College Arts and Technology building in Kalispell.

Comments can also be submitted by mail to Grizzly Bear ARM, Wildlife Division, Department of Fish, Wildlife and

Parks, P.O. Box 200701, Helena, Montana, 59620-0701; or e-mail FWPGRIZZLYBEARARM@mt.gov, and must be received no later than Oct. 26, 2018.

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