POLSON – It was close to an elementary school, and getting closer.
Game wardens from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes on Tuesday lethally removed a large adult black bear that had entered Polson, and was within three blocks of Linderman School.
Germaine White, education and information specialist for CSKT’s Natural Resources Department, said the wardens tried hazing the bear in an attempt to turn it around. When the bear became agitated and did not head in the direction they were trying to herd it, tribal authorities quickly reached the decision to dispatch the animal.
The bear was shot.
“It was too great a risk,” White said. “It was a very large bear, in town, that was food- and people-habituated.”
The bear was in a residential area, close to not only the school but just northeast of CSKT’s Fish, Wildlife, Recreation and Conservation offices when it was put down. White said she did not know if the school was notified because the situation was dealt with quickly.
“Because of the risk, when you look at where the bear was, there was no tolerance,” she said. “The situation was taken care of before there was a threat.”
Information on the age and sex of the bear was not immediately available Thursday, but White said she was told it was “very large.”
She said it was a good reminder that it’s not just people who live in rural areas who need to take steps to avoid attracting bears.
People who live in town should also secure their trash inside a garage or shed if possible and put it out the morning trash is collected and not the night before. Feed pets inside or bring pet food in at night. Be aware bird feeders are a bear attractant, and either hang them out of reach or don’t put them up between April and November.
“Bad people behavior ends up in dead bears,” White said. “The most important thing is to limit attractants.”
Bears that discover there is easy pickings for food in trash cans, and discover town is a place with lots of trash cans, are no different than a dog you feed scraps to from the dinner table. Once they figure out they can eat there, they’ll keep coming back for more.
“They become conditioned and emboldened,” White said, “and the bear pays the ultimate price.”
In April, a grizzly bear attacked and mauled a Salish Kootenai College student about a mile from the SKC campus in Pablo, which is about seven miles south of Polson. In that incident, the bear was a sow who acted to protect her two cubs after the surprise encounter with the student, a 42-year-old male, in a brushy area along Mud Creek.
The victim survived, and the grizzly and her cubs retreated into the Mission Mountains after the attack.