Grizzly bears moved to Cabinet Mountains to boost small population

A pair of grizzly bears have a new home in northwest Montana.

The two grizzly bears were recently moved to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem in Lincoln County as part of a program designed to recover the bear population and improve its genetic diversity.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) — along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) — captured the bears in the Whitefish Range.

FWP spokesman Dillon Tabish says 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.

Tabish notes in a news release that USFWS 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.

Biologists estimated fewer than 15 grizzly bears remained in the Cabinet-Yaak back in 1988. Twenty-two bears have now been added in the Cabinet Mountains since the program’s inception.

The current population of grizzly bears in the Cabinet-Yaak is now estimated at 55-to-60 animals with approximately half of these in the Cabinet Mountains and half in the Yaak River area.

The Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem, one of six designated recovery zones for grizzly bears in the lower 48 states, is located in northwest Montana and northeast Idaho.

Click here to view FWP’s latest grizzly bear management report on the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem.