Grizzly bear cub killed by BNSF train, bringing deaths to 48 so far this year

A freight train hit and killed a male grizzly bear cub on the railroad tracks near Columbia Falls earlier this week, bringing to 48 the number of grizzly bear mortalities so far this year in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials released the details of three recent grizzly bear kills on Friday.

BNSF Railway reported hitting the grizzly bear cub near North Hilltop Road on Nov. 8. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks responded and did not find any evidence of attractants at the site. Nor were there any additional bears involved in the crash. The Fish and Wildlife Service was notified of the bear’s death, as required by law.

Also within the last month, an adult female grizzly bear was found dead near Sullivan Creek southwest of Hungry Horse Reservoir. That bear was wearing a GPS radio collar that notified FWP of its death. FWP investigated the scene and determined the bear likely died of natural causes.

A separate adult female grizzly bear was found dead near Wildcat Creek west of Hungry Horse Reservoir. That bear was also wearing a GPS radio collar that notified FWP. Upon investigation, FWP determined it also likely died of natural causes.

So far this year, 48 grizzly bear mortalities have been identified in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem due to a variety of circumstances, including management action, collisions, natural deaths and augmentation, FWP said on Friday.

“Bears are classified as mortalities if they die, are taken to an accredited zoo or research facility if possible, are euthanized or are moved to another ecosystem. One-to-two bears are annually targeted for relocation to the Cabinet-Yaak Ecosystem as part of an augmentation program,” FWP said in a written release.

The NCDE is home to more than 1,000 grizzly bears. The designated grizzly bear recovery zone spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands.

“FWP maintains a population monitoring program and follows protocols and management objectives designed to maintain a healthy grizzly bear population in the NCDE,” the agency said. “This includes tracking known mortalities, whether bears are killed or removed from the population, and notifying the public.”

Right now, grizzly bears are still actively seeking food sources before the winter denning season. Bears typically enter their dens by late November and early December and do no re-emerge until spring.