Four North Fork grizzlies put down; feasted on garbage stored in trailer
Monica, the iconic North Fork grizzly, and her cubs. (William K. Walker photo)
It was a bad week for bears both in the North Fork and Glacier National Park. Both incidents were preventable if people had taken steps to secure their garbage and food, park officials and biologists say. In the North Fork, grizzly bear management specialist Tim Manley had to kill a productive 20-year-old sow grizzly named Monica and her three yearling cubs after they repeatedly got into garbage and broke into vehicles.
The bears got into a trailer in Polebridge that was being used to store garbage, Manley said in a Facebook post to North Fork residents. They also got into a grill left on a porch and, two garbage cans where the clips weren’t working properly. Then they broke into a pickup topper with food and garbage stored inside.
Over the course of last week, all four bears were eventually captured, first the three cubs in barrel traps and then Monica in a foot snare as they returned to a site that had garbage.
All the bears were put down by lethal injection.
There was some discussion about moving the yearling cubs and putting down the female, but after assessing the damage to the vehicles and property, it was decided to put the whole family down, Manley said.
Monica was originally captured in 2004 as a sub-adult on the east side of the mountains at the site of a calf depredation. They didn’t know if she was the bear that killed the calf but the decision was made to relocate her to the west side of Glacier Park, Manley said.
She remained in the North Fork for 17 years and spent a majority of her time in Glacier Park, but denned in Hay Creek and on Cyclone. During those 17 years she was captured twice in culvert traps set for research. She wore the radio collars for a few years before they dropped off. During those 17 years, biologists documented her having at least four litters — two litters of two and two litters of three.
“I have said it many times before, killing bears is the worst part of my job. We try to avoid having to do it but when bears become very food-conditioned and start begin causing property damage and breaking into vehicles, trailers, and cabins, those bears are removed,” Manley said.
In a separate incident, on Sept. 2 Glacier National Park officials announced they killed a food-conditioned black bear that was roaming in the Many Glacier campground.
Over the course of several days, the bear exhibited behavior consistent with food reward conditioning. At one point, the bear took apples out of the trunk of a car while people were packing up to leave. Rangers verbally hazed the bear out of the area only to have it return a half-hour later.
The bear also may have been the same bear that showed little fear of humans at Grinnell Lake a few days before. The bear was caught in a barrel trap and then killed. Black bears are not endangered species like grizzly bears. Rangers and biologist implore people to secure their garbage and other attractants in bear country. They ask that birds not be fed in months when bears are awake, that fruit trees be cleaned up or fenced in with electric fencing and that people do the same with chicken coops. Dogs and pets should be fed inside.
In the North Fork, bears are also attracted to ground squirrels that have been shot and are left in fields.