FWP forced to kill grizzly bear that raided Stevi golf course, then Seeley Lake

The young grizzly was captured last year after frequenting the Stevensville Golf Course. (Photo by Jason Lehtola)

The grizzly bear that made headlines last year for turning up in the Bitterroot Valley and digging holes in golf course fairways has met a sad end.

On Thursday, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear biologist Jamie Jonkel had to kill the young bear he transplanted last year from the Stevensville golf course, because the bear has been breaking into outbuildings and dumpsters looking for food in areas around Seeley Lake and Woodworth.

The bear appeared to be food-conditioned, Jonkel said, which means the bear had learned to associate dumpsters and buildings with food, so he kept coming back. Once that happens, bears will continue breaking into such places, so wildlife agencies have to put them down as a human-safety precaution.

That’s why it’s important for people living in bear country to keep food and other attractants under lock and key. They should have bear-proof garbage bins and should keep pet food inside. Otherwise, as the saying goes, “a fed bear is a dead bear.”

“If bears are able to find uncontained attractants like garbage, grain and even birdseed, then they tend to stay in the area looking for more, and it is extremely hard to break that behavior pattern,” Jonkel said in a release.

Last October, FWP relocated the bear from Stevensville to a remote area in the lower Blackfoot Valley with hopes that it would stay away from populated areas and return to natural food sources.

This spring, however, the grizzly found an unlocked garbage trailer in the Seeley area. After that, the young bear continued to break into garages, trailers and outbuildings in search of food, spending a lot of time near homes and recreation areas, including Placid Lake, Clearwater Junction and Ovando.

FWP captured the bear Wednesday night and killed it after getting approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“All it takes is one person not containing attractants to set bears up to become food conditioned. Unfortunately, we see this over-and-over again,” Jonkel said. “The best thing we can do for bears and the safety of people is to keep things that could attract bears securely locked up or electrified and out of a bear’s reach and encourage your neighbors to do the same.”