Grizzly sightings around Conrad

10_bear-outside-of-conrad_6955By Tirsea McNeal – I-O Reporter
Connie Bitney has seen a Grizzly on her 200 acre property out Sanders Road just 14 miles north west of Conrad, and reported her neighbor even had one walk across their back porch. 
Bitney said, “Seeing them is exciting, but scary in the fact this one was that close.”
She said that there were two in the neighborhood in the same day.  “This used to be their home.”  She said, “They’re returning, it’s just that we’re here now.”
Being more bear aware, Bitney says she has gotten more cautious.  “When my dogs are acting weird, or barking a lot, I listen and look around before going out.” 
Bitney said you just have to keep doing what you normally do, just being more cautious and aware. 
As bear sightings become more frequent, the reports become larger than life, and sometimes deadly encounters.  Local Grizzly sightings are becoming common, and closer, a little too close for some ranchers.
In a recent update, Wildlife officials have captured a grizzly bear that is responsible for the deaths of more than 70 sheep.
Grizzly bear management specialist Mike Madel of  Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks says that he and wildlife officials captured the bear and its cub around 9:30 a.m. on Sunday at the Coffman Ranch in the Collins area.
We actually had an adult female grizzly with one cub that had crossed highway 89 and preyed on some sheep on the new Miami Colony about a week and a half ago.  The one and only cub has been captured and has an ear transmitter.  Mike Hogan captured the cub but was unable to capture the female.  According to Madel, “It moved on and then it preyed on many sheep-- over 50 sheep at the Jones’ ranch.  Many lambs were trampled and then it disappeared.”
Friday night the Coffman family, about 14 miles away, also reported two sheep deaths.
Model said “Yesterday we got the state helicopter and I flew with the pilot and darted the female.  We found and immobilized her from the helicopter. We were able to identify which female it was, and that she was a research female. She had no previous nuisance history, one of the youngest on record to have a litter.  She’s unique.  We’re currently working on a relocation plan for her and her cub.”
Madel said the sow was not viciously attacking the sheep, but was earning a “protein reward” from them.
Aaron Jones of Jones’ ranch said he is putting up an electric fence after his sheep were killed.  He found five dead rams one night and the grizzlies returned and killed 53, with carcasses strewn over a 120 acre field.
“Basically this is a female in poor shape,” Madel said. “She very possibly felt she could come back and feed on these carcasses at another time and so they’re killing what they have available for the opportunity to continue to feed.”
Despite their huge size, grizzlies are fast and have been clocked at 30 miles an hour.  
Wildlife and local authorities warn Grizzly sightings should be called in and reported as soon as they’re sighted. 
Sheriff Tom Kuka in Conrad said, “Bears have been on the rise over the last few years and last year we had a few sightings, but this year it’s becoming a daily event.”
Although sightings have become more common, it isn’t expected they will start strolling downtown Conrad anytime soon.
However, if you have seen a bear on your property, take precautions necessary to ensure they won’t get any more curious about your household. 
Most “bear” advice is common sense, but a list of safety tips to follow includes, keeping trash away from the house.
Don’t get closer just to get a good picture, these neighboring bears can cross a vast distance in the short time it takes you to realize you got too close.
Don’t feed your pets outside.  Bears love pet food, and apparently, they like Hummingbird feeders also. 
Don’t wander around at night in areas where bears have been sighted. Make lots of noise when traveling on foot through the brush, bears don’t like to be startled.
Basically, yield to the bear’s right of way and let our Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks authorities know when a bear has been sighted.