1st reported by the Missoulian: The roomful of biologists had lots of funny ideas why Ethyl the grizzly bear logged 2,800 miles arcing from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, past Florence and Missoula and eventually up to Eureka by way of Glacier National Park. Maybe she ate a bad chicken. Or she was looking for someone she couldn’t find. Or she couldn’t find her back to her home range northeast of Bigfork – the one place she noticeably missed in the three-year ramble.
“The one thing we can say is this was not representative of normal bear movement, and certainly not female grizzly bear movement,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “She had some really bizarre travels.”
Actually, there’s one more thing we can say about Ethyl. The 20-year-old sow proved grizzly bears can cross interstate highways, major city boundaries, municipal landfills and residential backyards without getting into trouble with humans.
That’s important to the wildlife managers of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, whose Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem subcommittee members were meeting in Missoula on Tuesday.
It adds hope that the big omnivores can coexist with people as their numbers start pushing out of their wilderness core habitat.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Rick Mace joked that Ethyl seemed to be traveling with a “Be People-Aware” brochure and a can of people-spray on her journey. Apparently she’d learned her lesson after being caught and collared in 2006 and 2012.
Ethyl spent most of her life around Lake Blaine, between Bigfork and the Swan Mountains. After her first capture while raiding an apple orchard, she was relocated to the Wounded Buck Creek drainage along Hungry Horse Reservoir.
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