A male grizzly bear that traveled long distances to reach the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness Area seems to have found sufficient resources to stay put.
The 3-year-old bear has been in the upper Storm Creek drainage, about 10 miles southeast of Lolo Pass, for the past two weeks. The bear has been in Idaho since traveling through the Panhandle as it headed south from the Cabinet Mountains in Montana this spring.
Wayne Kasworm said black bear hunters in the Lolo area should be extra careful when selecting their targets. Grizzly bears are protected by the Endangered Species Act and are off-limits to hunters.
“He’s been in that area for almost two weeks now, and the fact that he’s not moving that much suggests to me he is finding some good feeding areas, and that probably means huckleberries,” said Kasworm, a grizzly expert for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Libby, Mont.
Wildlife officials in Montana released the bear in the Cabinet Mountains northeast of Clark Fork last year. It moved south into Idaho and was recaptured and returned to Montana after visiting a black bear bait station. The bear again headed south and into Idaho before returning to the Cabinets to den for the winter.
Upon emerging from its den this spring, the bear traveled south into the Panhandle again. It traveled through the Coeur d’Alenes and eventually crossed into the North Fork of the Clearwater River Basin from the St. Joe River drainage in June and then crossed U.S. Highway 12 and the Lochsa River to reach the wilderness area in July. It has spent most of the summer moving within the remote area.
Since emerging from its den, the bear traveled more than 250 miles to its present location.
Grizzly bears can be distinguished from black bears by their distinctive shoulder humps, long claws on their front feet, dish-shaped faces and shorter, rounder ears.
“All of those characteristics are important,” Kasworm said. “One thing I like to say to black bear hunters when I do bear identification work is, ‘If you are out there hunting black bears and you are not sure it’s a black bear, then you don’t shoot.’”
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Ralph Bartholdt contributed to this report