Two more grizzly bears from this area have been moved to the Cabinet-Yaak ecosystem near Libby to bolster populations there.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, captured the bears in the Whitefish Range. The first bear, a sub-adult female weighing 94 pounds, was released July 13 in the Spar Lake area on the Kootenai National Forest south of Troy. The second bear, a sub-adult male weighing 194 pounds, was released July 16 in the same area.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leads the research and monitoring in the ecosystem in collaboration with FWP, Idaho Fish and Game, Kootenai Tribe of Idaho, Idaho Panhandle National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, and Lolo National Forest.
The Cabinet-Yaak Augmentation Program began in 1990 in an effort to save the population and boost genetic diversity. In 1988, biologists estimated fewer than 15 grizzly bears remained in the Cabinet-Yaak. The primary objectives of the program are to bolster reproduction through the addition of female bears, and overall genetic diversity through the addition of female and male bears. Twenty-two bears have now been added in the Cabinet Mountains since the program’s inception.
The Cabinet–Yaak Ecosystem encompasses approximately 1,000 square miles in the Yaak River drainage and 1,620 square miles in the Cabinet Mountains. The ecosystem is bisected by the Kootenai River, with the Cabinet Mountains to the south and the Yaak River area to the north.
All bears moved through the augmentation program have no history of conflicts with people and were moved in the summer to take advantage of developing food supplies in the form of huckleberries. Initial augmentation consisted of females but in recent years males have also been added.
The current population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak is estimated at 55-60 individuals with approximately half of these in the Cabinet Mountains and half in the Yaak River area. The population is growing at approximately 1-2 percent per year, biologists estimate.
The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, is one of six designated recovery zones for grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is located in northwest Montana and northeast Idaho. Blocks of contiguous habitat extend into British Columbia, making this an international population. The recovery zone includes portions of the Kootenai, Idaho Panhandle, and Lolo National Forests, including one wilderness area, the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness.