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Grizzly captured (copy)

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bear managers inspect a tranquilized 900-pound grizzly bear that got cornered inside a shed at the Birch Creek Colony near Valier in 2018. The bear was released in a remote area west of East Glacier.

After a particularly tough winter, ranchers around grizzly bear country have opportunities to get their weather-killed livestock carcasses picked up before the bears find them.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has partnered with the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wildlife Federation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide carcass collection this spring along the Rocky Mountain Front. A similar program including the Blackfoot Challenge and the Montana Department of Transportation provides that service in the Blackfoot Valley area.

Several ranches reported grizzlies visiting their compounds last year seeking dead cattle or other carrion, according to Blackfoot Challenge wildlife committee chairman Randy Gazda. He advised landowners to keep carrion at least 400 yards from human and livestock activity in a spot with good visibility to avoid accidently encountering a feeding bear. The Blackfoot Challenge and FWP can arrange emergency removals of dead animals if necessary, but also have routine collection schedules. Call (406)793-5639 for more information or to schedule a removal.

“Last year, we collected 418 carcasses from 35 ranches,” Gazda said in an email. “All told we have removed more than 7,820 carcasses off of 110 ranches in the Blackfoot and Granite County.”

East of the Continental Divide, FWP staff can relocate some carcasses away from ranches and closer to the Rocky Mountain Front in Teton and Pondera counties. Others are taken to a special landfill east of Valier for composting similar to the Blackfeet Challenge’s disposal system. For more information or to have carcasses removed, call 406-468-8690.

The Flathead Indian Reservation may set up a similar system for carcass pickup but hasn’t got anything in place this spring, according to Confederated Salish-Kootenai tribal wildlife biologist Stacy Courville. However, his department is actively monitoring spring grizzly incidents, including a pair of 1-year-old motherless cubs that have been harassing livestock since February.

“They’ve been in multiple cow herds during the daytime, although they haven’t killed a cow yet,” Courville said. “They did kill six sheep and injured three more. They’ve been bouncing all over from Moiese to the hills west of Charlo.”

Because the twins appear habituated to threatening domestic animals, Courville said they will trapped and removed as soon as possible. Anyone needing to report unwanted grizzly activity should call the CSKT tribal dispatch at 406-675-4700.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.