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Black bear euthanized in downtown Polson

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POLSON — A black bear was euthanized in Polson June 4 after wandering into town in search of food, Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Wildlife Division Manager Tom McDonald said. 

“Bear attractants are a key component as to why you would have a bear around a home,” McDonald said. “I would imagine this bear had been habituated to human attractants like food, garbage and bird feeders.”

McDonald said that habituation is most likely what lead the black bear into downtown Polson. Wildlife officials attempted to haze the bear out of town, but the bear continued moving into more densely populated areas. 

“You usually don’t have a bear in town in the middle of the day when everyone is outside and there’s a lot of exposure,” McDonald said, adding that it was a big bear — over 250 pounds — and that was a factor in the safety concern. “He kept migrating closer to humans, attracting a crowd and getting more excited and agitated as he got closer to the grade school. It was an unfortunate situation, for sure, but for human safety (euthanizing the bear) was the only option we had. He was going to run into someone, and someone would have been hurt.”

McDonald said bears will often get close to a community, living on the outskirts of town in search of food and, at times, passing through populated areas under cover of darkness.

“We have grizzlies that come really close and wander into residential areas at night, and nobody even knows,” he said. “It’s a whole different story when people are out and about and school is in session and he’s a few blocks from the playground.”

McDonald wishes to remind people to minimize and secure bear attractants like chickens and other livestock, garbage, bird feeders, adding that everyone can help with bear management and reduce the likelihood of these kinds of situations. 

“Be bear aware and look at what kind of attractants a bear might be coming in on,” he said. “This is Western Montana, and you have high bear numbers everywhere out here ... at some time, this bear was successfully acquiring food around humans. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been here. That’s the problem.”

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