Trappers from U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services with help from Idaho Fish and Game, on April 22, euthanized a three-year old female grizzly that had come out of hibernation and started getting into garbage cans in a subdivision near the Idaho-Wyoming border outside Driggs.
The bear had been relocated last year after becoming habituated to apple orchards on the North Fork of the Shoshone River in Wyoming. Compounding the problem of the bear's addiction to human related foods, local residents had not been complying with a bear sanitation ordinance that went into effect for Teton County last year. The bear had lost all fear of people, and out of concern for human safety the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorized removal of the bear.
"While the Yellowstone Ecosystem is a big place, there is no where you can put a problem bear without the chance of it getting back into trouble," Regional Wildlife Manager Daryl Meints said.
Because the bear had become habituated to human related foods meant it was likely to run into problems no matter where it might have been released, but the residents' failure to follow the guidelines of the bear sanitation order regarding the storage of garbage cans accelerated the bear's downfall.
The Yellowstone Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan requires that bears be relocated within the state in which they were captured when causing problems. This bear had been released in Wyoming near Squirrel Meadows, but had spent the fall and denned for the winter in Idaho. Earlier in the week, Fish and Game had been working with Wyoming Game and Fish to try to capture the bear after it would retreat into the foothills of Wyoming after several nights of raiding in Idaho, where it also seemed to develop a taste for foam rubber products like hot tub covers and cars seats.
Teton County Prosecutor Kathy Spitzer had already begun to send out letters to the residents failing to comply with the sanitation ordinance, but repeated raids by the bear and its total loss of fear of humans meant action had to be taken.
"We don't enjoy having to do this, but the actions of the people caused us to. While Yellowstone grizzlies are technically still on the Endangered Species List, the population is essentially recovered and this is the kind of management action we will need to take to keep people safe once bears become food conditioned," Fish and Game Regional Supervisor Steve Schmidt said.
Local Fish and Game conservation officers had been going door to door to inform residents about the bear's presence and what they as homeowners needed to do to help prevent future problems.
The game plan shifted Friday April 20 when the sow decided to shift to a diet of domestic piglets, chickens and bee hives farther south near the Victor Cemetery. Once the bear had gotten into domestic livestock, Fish and Game was able to request the assistance of USDA Wildlife Services trappers.
The bear struck again the next evening, getting into some different chickens, and revisiting the previous site. Trappers had placed a culvert trap for the bear, but the bear would not enter it. But the bear did step into a snare that had also been set.
The bear was dispatched at daylight on Sunday when trappers were investigating the previous night's activities. The bear will be mounted for education purposes and placed in the U.S. Forest Service Teton Ranger District office, where it will be used to educate the public about the challenges of living in bear country.
A recent bear-human conflict workshop in Missoula, Montana, included several sessions on the growing problems of bears being attracted to personal chicken flocks. Even something as seemingly benign as a compost pile can be a irresistible draw for bears.
"People living in bear country need look at everything they do and figure out if it will attract bears; because even though we took care of this one, there are still other black and grizzly bears out there in the woods," Meints said.
A good starting point to learn about living with bears is the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee website, found at www.igbconline.org.