Grizzly bear monitoring efforts to begin in southern Madison County

Researchers with the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team will begin efforts to trap bears in the southern Gravelly and Madison Mountain Ranges later this month, officials announced last week.

The trapping operations are part of the team’s normal annual monitoring work, said Kevin Frey, grizzly bear specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks in Bozeman.

“The research efforts vary in location from year to year,” Frey said. “There’s been efforts in the Gravelly’s and on that Madison face a couple of times in the last five years.”

All major public access points to areas where the trapping operations are being conducted will be marked with warning signs, according to a press release issued by the IGBST.

“It is important that the public heed these signs and do not venture into an area that has been posted,” reads the release.

The extra effort in notifying the public about grizzly bear trapping operations comes a year after Erwin Evert was killed in Wyoming by a male grizzly bear that had recently been trapped, tranquilized and collared by the IGBST. According to news reports, Evert had been hiking in the area just east of Yellowstone National Park that was posted with warning signs.

It’s important that people pay close attention to the warnings in the areas where researchers are trapping bears, Frey said.

The trapping efforts are part of the ongoing monitoring work by the IGBST that started back in 1975. Grizzly bears in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem are listed as threatened on the Endangered Species List.

Though trapping efforts may catch any bear – black or grizzly, male or female – the hope is to catch and collar female grizzlies, Frey said. Currently researchers have no grizzlies radio collared in the Gravelly Mountains.

Last fall, two grizzly bear attacks occurred in the southern Gravellys within a week’s span. Both attack victims were archery hunters and neither attack was fatal. However, it underscores what researchers have seen over the past few years, which is a grizzly bear population expanding from Yellowstone National Park.

“If Yellowstone Park is the heart or the core of the population … as that fills up or fills in, you’re slowly going to get these bears bleeding off into those adjacent habitats or mountain ranges,” Frey said.

The grizzly bear population is the Greater Yellowstone Region is at approximately 600 bears and is growing about four percent each year, he said.

The trapping operations will begin after Montana’s spring black bear season closes June 15, Frey said. The trapping will conclude by July 15.

For more information, call 994-6675.

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