A female grizzly bear was found dead last week in the Spotted Bear area south of Hungry Horse Reservoir. A cub was also orphaned by a car wreck last weekend on Highway 93 south of Ronan that killed its mother and two siblings.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesperson Dillon Tabish says the cause of death of the bear found near Hungry Horse remains unknown. The orphaned cub is alive, and Montana FWP is seeking a permanent facility to house the bear.
"In these instances if we can’t find a zoo or an education or research facility, we do have to euthanize the bear because they can’t survive on their own in the wild," Tabish says.
That brings the total number of grizzly mortalities in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, or NCDE, to 27. The average number of grizzly mortalities every year in the ecosystem is 25.
But Tabish says for scientists, mortality doesn’t necessarily mean physical death.
"So the term mortality is what we use to follow the population," Tabish says. "Anytime a bear is taken out of the population, it’s classified as a mortality."
So this can mean placement in another ecosystem, movement to a zoo or research facility, euthanization, or death.
The NCDE is home to the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced earlier this year that they will propose to delist the grizzly in the area from protections under the Endangered Species Act in September.
In a story published earlier this week, Tabish told MTPR that 13 grizzlies had been killed by cars so far this year in the NCDE
"It was a learning curve for me too, because I was told there was 13 vehicle collision mortalities," Tabish says. "There right away I assumed that means 13 dead grizzly bears."
In fact, Tabish says nine grizzlies have been killed by cars, and four cubs have been orphaned. Three of those cubs were moved to a zoo in Canada. All are considered mortalities to the population.