As grizzlies roam, managers look to new frontline towns

Joshua Murdock

As Montana’s grizzly bear population reclaims historical habitat beyond designated recovery zones, the bears are moving into communities that haven’t seen grizzlies for generations.

That’s spurring wildlife managers to prepare ranchers and residents before grizzlies appear at their doorsteps.  

“Right now we’ve got subadults dispersing to who knows where,” said Jamie Jonkel, bear management specialist for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. “These bears are dispersing outward.”

Jonkel estimated 40 grizzlies are living on the Blackfoot and Clearwater valley floors: “We’re going to see more and more creep as time goes by because we do have an awful lot of female activity in the Blackfoot Valley and elsewhere.”

That “very slow creep” into other areas leads wildlife managers like Jonkel to begin educating people on how to avoid conflict before the bears arrive. Across FWP’s Region 2, Jonkel said he’s “beating the drum and beating it loud so that the communities outside of where we have grizzly activities are at least hearing what’s going on.” 

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Jonkel described the outreach as a “slow process that’s just barely in front of the bear line,” and said that

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