A grizzly bear killed a calf on a ranch in central Montana earlier this week, evidence that bears are moving further out of their territory.
Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks announced that a calf was killed by a grizzly after an investigation was conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services confirmed the death was depredation by a bear.
The calf was killed on a ranch near Two Dot, an area of the state where grizzlies are not common. Wildlife officials believe that the bears are expanding their territory from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem where there are established grizzly populations.
Trail cameras took photos of a grizzly bear at the start of September near the Haymaker Wildlife Management Area approximately 12 miles north of the ranch. Once it was determined that a grizzly bear had killed the calf, Wildlife Services attempted to capture the bear at the depredation site. However, because of a high number of black bears in the region traps were pulled from the site on Oct. 10.
It is not clear if the grizzly bear came from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem or the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. However, biologists from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks are investigating the case. They are attempting to find either scat or hair samples from the bear for DNA analysis to indicate where it came from.
This is not the first time that grizzly bears have ventured out of their territory and killed livestock in Montana. Last year two sub-adult male bears were captured and euthanized after killing cattle near Stanford, the farthest east that grizzlies had been seen in 100 years.
In June, an adult male bear was euthanized in southcentral Montana after killing at least four cattle. That area of the state has seen more grizzly activity due to its close proximity to Yellowstone National Park.
Grizzly bears are still listed as Threatened under the Endangered Species Act. For a short time grizzlies were temporarily delisted last year. Protections for grizzly bears was reinstated by a federal judge in September, halting what would have been the first grizzly hunts in the Lower 48 states since 1991.