Two orphaned grizzly bear cubs are on their way to Rivendale Wildlife Sanctuary in Washington County after their mother was euthanized for developing a proclivity for human food. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) reports that the two cubs and the mother bear were captured July 10th just north of Whitefish. After first being captured breaking into unsecured garbage and chicken coops, the adult female bear was then relocated to nearby Glacier National Park in 2020.
In the two years since, Montana FWP received numerous reports of a female bear around Olney, located north of Whitefish, bursting into sheds in search of “unnatural food sources” such as garbage, livestock feed, and domestic rabbits. Just this spring, the mother bear was reported to have partially torn open a residential garage door. These escalating efforts to obtain human foods indicated to Montana FWP that the mother bear had become severely “food conditioned,” meaning she had lost her natural foraging behaviors after exposure to human foods and presented a public safety risk. The decision was ultimately made to euthanize the adult bear and move her two cubs to the sanctuary. The facility is accredited through the Zoological Association of America, providing permanent homes to orphaned and rescued animals with recently constructed bear enclosures that will house the cubs.
“While we’re grateful that the Rivendale Wildlife Sanctuary had the appropriate space and accepted these two cubs for permanent placement, we’d much rather see them in the wild avoiding conflict with humans,” Lee Anderson, Montana FWP Region 1 supervisor in Kalispell, said in a press release. “I can’t stress enough the importance of securing food attractants in bear country, it will keep people safe and bears wild.”
In the northwest corner of the state, seven bears – both grizzlies and black bears – have already been euthanized this summer due to food conditioning. Authorities have stressed the importance of securing garbage, livestock supplies, and other foodstuffs in order to prevent bears from acclimating to human foods and developing aggressive behaviors to obtain them.