Griz in Bitterroot Wasn’t the First, Won’t be Last, Expert Says
The young male grizzly bear caught near a Stevensville golf course this past week was a surprise to many, but not to Montana FWP bear management specialist Jamie Jonkle. Jonkle says that grizzly wasn’t the first in the Bitterroot and it won’t be the last.
"We’ve had other bears show up: we had that grizzly that was shot, mistakenly identified as a black bear by a hunter up near Lolo Pass about 5 years ago, but this little grizzly was the first one ever captured right down in the valley floor there," Jonkle said. "Over the next 10 years we are going to start seeing you more and more grizzlies re-colonizing historic ranges."
It is unclear what path the bear took to get to Stevensville, but Jonkle has a theory and believes other valleys in Western Montana will see more grizzly bears soon.
"I think he came out of the Sapphires," Jonkle. "I think this little grizzly just came out of the Rock Creek country or he ventured south across the Clark Fork I90 and ended up in the Sapphires, but I am placing bets that he came out of that Sapphire range and out of that Rock Creek country. They have been seeing them down in the Big Hole quite a bit. We have been getting them in the Ninemile. We have been getting them in the lower Clark Fork. They are creeping southwards."
Another grizzly was down in the Stevensville area in 2002 and 2003, but was never caught even though it got into local trash cans. About five years ago, radio collar data showed a grizzly bear named ‘Ethel’ walked along the northern fringe of the city of Missoula during an epic trek that also looped through the Bitterroot and way over near Couer d’Alene, Idaho.