Radio collar confirms griz on Missoula fringe for 1st time

2013-01-24T12:15:00Z 2014-12-08T07:32:13Z Radio collar confirms griz on Missoula fringe for 1st time missoulian.com

A grizzly bear has ambled across the southern border of the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and onto Missoula’s urban fringe.

“It looks like she did it within a few days – looked out of the trees above Grant Creek, heard all the noise and saw all the stuff and didn’t come down,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Missoula. “That’s good. But there will be others.”

The visit took place in October 2011. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks researchers learned about it when they recovered the 4-year-old female grizzly’s radio collar on March 26, 2012, near her den along the Jocko River on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The collar had a device that recorded its location every six hours.

About 1,000 grizzly bears live in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which extends from Glacier National Park south through the Bob Marshall and Mission Mountains wildernesses. The big bears have drifted farther south along the Blackfoot River drainage into the Garnet Mountains and occasionally crossed Interstate 90 between Rock Creek and Drummond.

But they’ve rarely traveled into the Rattlesnake Wilderness north of Missoula, let alone approached the edge of the city limits.

“We’ve been saying for a long time there’s going to be a griz showing up here,” Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear manager Jamie Jonkel said Tuesday. “For years, we’ve been working hard with the communities like Missoula, Seeley Lake, Clinton and Frenchtown, getting them ready. Those hard efforts those community groups did will start to pay off as we start seeing more and more of these guys.”

Jonkel said he’d had frequent eyewitness reports of grizzlies in the Rattlesnake as well as the Grant Creek, Butler Creek and LaValle Creek drainages. But this was the first bear confirmed by satellite mapping to have visited the area.

In Kalispell, FWP biologist Rick Mace has been studying the grizzly’s collar data. He said Confederated Salish and Kootenai bear wardens caught her on the reservation on Aug. 3, 2011, while trying to capture a different problem bear near Post Creek. She spent most of the next two months in the Mission Mountains and visited the east shore of Flathead Lake.

On Oct. 10, she got caught again raiding an apple orchard on Flathead’s east shore. Tribal biologists relocated her to the Jocko River drainage east of St. Ignatius.

Then she headed west and crossed U.S. Highway 93 near Arlee. It’s uncertain if she used one of the new wildlife under- or overpasses built there in the past few years. Survey cameras in the area recorded a grizzly by one of the underpasses, but the date doesn’t match the collar data for when she crossed.

On Oct. 14, 2011, she turned back southeast and crossed the highway again. She followed a power line corridor near Joe’s Smoke Ring south toward Missoula and skirted around the Montana Snowbowl ski resort. Then she headed back northeast into the Rattlesnake Wilderness, bagging ridgetops on both sides of Rattlesnake Creek on the 17th.

By the 19th, she was back on the Flathead Indian Reservation north of the Rattlesnake. She denned in the hills above the Jocko River. Shortly after she ended hibernation in the spring of 2012, she slipped off her collar near the den site.

“One of the biggest things we’ve blown out of the water with these GPS collars is we thought they were elevation migrants,” Mace said. “We thought they went down in spring and up in summer. In fact, they’re up and down all over the place. There’s no change across the season. A grizzly can be at the top of McDonald Peak on Monday and down in the reservation valley the next day. They can be at any elevation, any habitat, any time.”

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

Reporter Rob Chaney can be reached at 523-5382 or at rchaney@missoulian.com.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(21) Comments

  1. Barak Nobama
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    Barak Nobama - January 30, 2013 12:16 pm
    Nice one! Thanks for the laugh.
  2. caverpilot
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    caverpilot - January 30, 2013 8:16 am
    Better shoosh them away lest they get habituated to ecstasy, date rape, and losing- just sayin....;)
  3. sallymander
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    sallymander - January 29, 2013 8:18 am
    Sure fire way to keep the Griz out of your yard is to put up a goal post.
  4. montanaeasy56
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    montanaeasy56 - January 27, 2013 9:58 am
    So what these "experts" are now telling us is that all their "scientific" data they lied about during the re-introduction was nothing more than conjecture and lies...Just like we all told them.
  5. gline
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    gline - January 25, 2013 4:30 pm
    Time for the hunter crazy people to go back to California
  6. gline
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    gline - January 25, 2013 4:30 pm
    OMG time to freak out! Natural predators out in the wild. How dare they!
  7. smarterthanwalter
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    smarterthanwalter - January 25, 2013 8:25 am
    Your a troll. Go back to the hills easterner.
  8. Roger
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    Roger - January 25, 2013 8:12 am
    It's obviously past time for a grizzly hunting season.
  9. Kokanee
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    Kokanee - January 25, 2013 1:36 am
    Well Smarter than walter so ya you want to send me to New Jersey, before the milk dried on your upper lip and the rash healed on your little bottom we were wondering just how many people were gonna come to Montany. It appears you have made the list of One toooooo Many.

    My backyard has always held the great bear, why when those educated biologists were telling us how rare and endangered they were one would sneak thru at night and lift a lamb or two. We as a state have been managing just fine till "you people" discovered Montana. When one was caught stealing and was punished promptly they learned now days they just move them around the state and handle them till they are no longer afraid of the business end of your preferred noise maker.

    While my friend was sittin up a tree last fall waiting for a sow to lose interest he summed it
    up best. D@mn bear.
  10. accobra
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    accobra - January 24, 2013 12:50 pm
    I live up above Clinton and in the last two years of 8 years living up at the top of the mountain I have seen more bears the ever before. I had an about 2 year old griz once in my yard and once on the road last year and a black bear tried to get in my front door. That same black bear was back this spring and alot bigger now! Pretty Cool though!!!
  11. smarterthanwalter
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    smarterthanwalter - January 24, 2013 10:57 am
    Kokanee, if you don't like large megafauna in your backyard, there's plenty of concrete in New Jersey. I'll chip in for gas money. :)

    The Rattlesnake is pretty amazing. I've seen dozens of black bears up there, moose, mountain goats, bign horns, elk, marten, coyotes, fox and mountain lions. My wife saw a wolf ambling across the road near Lincolnwoods (yes, the development) two years ago. It would not surprise me to hear about or see a grizzly exploring the Rattlesnake Creek cooridor or along the Jumbo saddle. I swear I treed a grizzly cub while mountain biking near the trailhead about 15 years ago but I wasn't going to stick around to see if I was right in case mom was nearby.
  12. Barak Nobama
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    Barak Nobama - January 24, 2013 10:33 am
    Yeah, I've been up in there a good bit. I've always gotten the "heebie-jeebies" up in that area an wondered how often the grizzlies come down into there. My guess is that once you get past where all the mountain bikers ride, you are pretty much on grizzly turf. You get isolated pretty fast back in there.

    I've seen a couple of 600 pound cinnamon black bears back in there. Curry gulch is a good spot for big sows. That ridgeline that parallels Rattlesnake Creek to the west of the creek is another good spot for big ones-especially off the trail. It seems to me like the small-medium sized bears hang out along the creek/canyon bottoms. None of the above bears have ever shown any aggression toward me though. They definately come in all shapes and sizes.

    I wonder if some people are mistaking the brown or cinnamon colored black bears for grizzlies in there.
  13. Barak Nobama
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    Barak Nobama - January 24, 2013 10:22 am
    True, but those are probably just from the black bears though.
  14. Indy
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    Indy - January 24, 2013 10:19 am
    A good thing for late-season mountain bikers to be aware of as they are moving quickly on the downhills.
  15. hg fisher
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    hg fisher - January 24, 2013 9:44 am
    I see griz tracks often high in the Rattlesnake near the rez divide, and also along the Jocko River farther up in the canyon. Many years ago I ran across one only 3 miles up the Stuart Peak trail. I think they've always been around.
  16. bdr
    Report Abuse
    bdr - January 24, 2013 7:54 am
    The area between snowbowl and Grant creek is full of scat and has been for years.
    apple trees and perfect cover exist there. Be careful in this area.
  17. Barak Nobama
    Report Abuse
    Barak Nobama - January 24, 2013 7:48 am
    Pretty cool article. Thanks for posting it. It is much more interesting than the stuff on Yahoo. I've been here 8 years and only have seen 2, maybe 3 grizzlies. I saw a sow and cub (from inside my vehicle) up on a road behind Seeley Lake (on the Mission mtns side). I think that I saw another crossing highway 83 north of Condon. All of the other dozens of bears that I have seen have been various colors of black bears. The Rattlesnake Creek drainage is probably the best place to go for bear viewing that I have found.

    I'd be really interested in hearing about other people's grizzly sightings near the Missoula area. (I spend a lot of time in the woods and would like to be prepared.) I usually carry a can of bear salsa just in case-unless I am hiking in the Northern Bitterroots near Lolo, Florence, and Stevi.

    Anyone else seen grizzlies nearby?
  18. oldcowgirl
    Report Abuse
    oldcowgirl - January 23, 2013 11:27 pm
    I live on the Rez and in Oct 2011 we were headed to Missoula in the early afternoon and a fairly large Grizzly bear ran right in front of us near Evero.on Hiway 93....(between Joe's Smoke Ring & Evero) We slammed on the brakes and the 2 cars behind also braked...... I've seen Grizzlies in the wild before but this was the first time crossing the Highway near Evero..... Amazing and heart stopping at the same time......I wonder if this was the same bear?
  19. Kokanee
    Report Abuse
    Kokanee - January 23, 2013 11:12 pm
    Put them all in MiZZOOLA along with their canine pets
  20. Mr C
    Report Abuse
    Mr C - January 23, 2013 10:46 pm
    I'd like to see the data for the one that was in the river bottom in Frenchtown.
  21. montanamuralist
    Report Abuse
    montanamuralist - January 23, 2013 7:06 pm
    There were reports in 2010 I think, of a grizzly getting in to bird feeders in Turah, across the river from me. I have not seen any tracks between Turah and Clinton but knowing one was spotted a few miles from here at Rock Creek has kept me watchful. I understand this is the first satellite tracking but I am sure there are more in this area than people realize. Kind of nice to have them as neighbors but need to use proper bear prevention methods ( keep garbage inside or in a bear proof container, pet food inside etc.) Thanks for the heads up here....mountain lions are getting to be a regular around here so was waiting for the griz to show up.
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