Grizzly tracks have been spotted in the Elk Park-Bernice area north of Butte, say Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.
There have been no reports of human-grizzly bear encounters in the area. But Shane Yaskus, FWP game warden, said he believes there is at least one grizzly bear roaming in that area.
“I have a couple of confirmed tracks,” Yaskus said.
The reports came into FWP in August. Yaskus put two game cameras up. So far, though, he hasn’t seen any photos of the grizzly.
Reports of grizzlies in the Elk Park area have come in every year for the last three years. Yaskus said he thinks there could be more than one grizzly in that area. He said FWP believes the grizzlies have come from the Glacier National Park area and the Bob Marshall Wilderness.
Meanwhile, black bears continue to annoy residents in both Butte-Silver Bow and Anaconda-Deer Lodge counties. Regan Dean, FWP game warden, said he put a trap out for a black bear that has been “getting bold” at the Flint Creek Campground on Fairmont Road off Interstate 90. Joe Kambic, FWP game warden, said another bear was getting into an Anaconda resident's cat food left out on the back porch.
"I told her to put the food away," Kambic said.
Kambic said he removed four black bears from Anaconda in September. Those removals came after The Montana Standard reported Kambic caught a bear in Anaconda in late August and removed it to the Sapphire Mountains. The Anaconda Police Department treed one bear at 3 a.m. in the middle of town in September, then waited till he got there to relocate it, Kambic said.
The other Anaconda black bears were caught in culvert traps that hold the bear when the animal comes into the metal space looking for baited food but does not harm it.
Dean said a resident in the 2000 block of Porter Street in Butte, just a few blocks from East Middle School, reported a moose complaint last week. But the moose went on its way before Fish and Game could relocate it.
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Dean said this has been a slow year for animal calls.
“We usually get more bear calls this time of year,” Dean said. “People need to clean up garbage and bird seed. Bears are looking for food, not people. They’re getting ready for the winter."
If you do run into a bear, having bear spray and knowing how to deploy it properly is the best weapon, Dean said. A bullet might not stop a bear.
He also advised not running away from the bear, but backing away slowly.
Dean said a hunter reported spotting a grizzly near the Idaho-Montana state line to the west of the Big Hole Valley. Three hunters experienced grizzly attacks to the southeast in the Gravelly Mountains last month.
Dean said the bears will likely be heading in for their winter hibernation by the end of the month. But, between now and then, FWP expects to get more calls reporting grizzly sightings from residents.
“We get calls on grizzlies all the time,” Dean said. “We had a report of a grizzly under the trestle on Roosevelt Drive. But it was a black bear. A lot of the time, it’s a grizzly until proven otherwise.”
Grizzlies have smaller ears, a dish-like face and a hump on their shoulders, Dean said. A black bear has larger ears and a straight face profile.
“Bears can be in different color phases. It’s not necessarily about color,” he said.