GREAT FALLS — A black bear was euthanized recently after causing all sorts of commotion and mischief in Big Sky, including stealing a slice of pizza off a woman’s plate at a bakery.
According to a press release from Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, the female bear was between eight and ten years old, and weighed about 185 pounds.
On September 15, the bear was seen wandering around Town Center in front of the Wilson Hotel. A Gallatin County Sheriff’s deputy said the bear almost entered the hotel through the automatic doors and showed no signs of fear of humans. Later that day, the bear was seen near homes on Curley Bear Road, where it got into unsecured garbage cans and opened garages.
On September 17, the bear was seen sitting just outside the door of the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, and it was undeterred until deputies fired rubber slugs at it. Later that day, FWP wardens learned the bear stole a slice of pizza off a woman’s plate while she sat at an outdoor table near the Blue Moon Bakery.
On September 18, deputies had to chase the bear away several times to keep it from coming into town. Two days later, the bear appeared at the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office again and left only after it was hit with rubber slugs.
On September 22, a homeowner along Old Mountain Road notified FWP wardens that the bear had gotten into several bags of trash that were left out on a porch.
FWP biologists and wardens set traps and made repeated attempts to capture the bear as its presence was reported in the Big Sky community. Photos and descriptions from witnesses indicate the same bear was involved in each incident.
On September 23, residents reported seeing the bear on Spruce Cone Drive near a school bus stop. The bear got into a garbage can there and dragged it up a hill. People walking their dogs in that area said the bear attempted to swat at the dogs as they walked by. One of the residents eventually used bear spray to scare away the bear.
FWP wardens captured the bear later that day, and said the bear was clearly habituated to receiving food rewards in urban and residential areas, showing no fear of humans. These behaviors pose unacceptable risks to public safety and property. Because of these factors, FWP euthanized the bear humanely. “This bear was a textbook example of being habituated and conditioned to receiving food rewards from humans,” said FWP Warden Ben Gleason.
State law prohibits people from intentionally feeding wildlife, and doing so is a citable offense. Big Sky zoning regulations also require that all refuse be stored in animal-proof containers or made unavailable to all domestic and wild animals. Bears habituated to unsecured food sources from humans can pose repeated threats to human safety and property throughout communities. Unfortunately, attractants and food rewards from humans are still the most common factor leading to black bear captures and removals.
To remain safe and prevent bears from getting in trouble, FWP always reminds people to remove any opportunity for bears to seek or find food in or around their homes, businesses and vehicles.
People should store all garbage, barbecue grills, pet food, horse pellets and livestock feed in a locked building. They should remove all bird feeders and clean up apples, berries and other potential food sources from their yard. Bear-proofing also includes thoroughly cleaning decks and patios around barbecue areas to remove odors from previous cooking.
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