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Three black bears euthanized after repeated conflicts in Missoula neighborhoods

Missoula Black Bears
Posted at 7:18 AM, May 09, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-09 09:18:09-04

MISSOULA — Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks trapped and euthanized three black bears Wednesday in Missoula that were responsible for repeated conflicts in Missoula neighborhoods.

FWP wildlife specialists reported that the female and two subadults began getting into garbage, bird feeders, garages, and other attractants last fall in Missoula’s Rattlesnake neighborhood, as well as in some temporary camps and tents along the Clark Fork River in Missoula.

FWP and local residents worked to secure attractants last fall, but even after the winter, the family group of bears remained in neighborhoods and around homes and local businesses in the middle of town, exhibiting bold behavior that indicates they were conditioned to these food sources.

FWP says once bears become conditioned to garbage and other attractants, it is a habit that is very hard to break and causes human safety concerns. Unfortunately, when bears start showing extreme food-conditioned behavior, the only way to prevent further conflict is through euthanization.

FWP recommends that in addition to keeping garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or in a secure building until the morning of trash collection, remove bird feeders when bears are out; consider using electric fencing around chickens, garden areas and compost piles; and move attractants such as pet food, barbecue grills and ripe fruit indoors or into a secure building.

Bear-resistant garbage containers or enclosures are required within the newly expanded Missoula Bear Buffer Zone. The new rules, adopted last fall, go into effect in phases, and are an important part of conflict prevention, although it will take time for some bears to adjust their habits. After years of accessing uncontained garbage, certain bears will continue to persistently attempt to get into secured garbage.

Phase 1 of the expanded Missoula Bear Buffer Zone applies to Missoula’s Rattlesnake and Grant Creek areas and began on April 30. For information on the Bear Buffer Zone and the Missoula Garbage Ordinance see the Missoula County website on bears and wildlife or its Bear Smart Missoula page.