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Governor's grizzly advisory council meets for third time

by Derrick Perkins Western News
| December 3, 2019 10:34 AM

Gov. Steve Bullock’s Grizzly Bear Advisory Council will meet in Missoula on Dec. 4 and 5 to discus conflict prevention, interagency responses, and education and outreach efforts.

The gathering, to be held in Missoula, marks the group’s third meeting since its inception. Bullock has charged the 18-member team with developing recommendations for grizzly bear management and conservation.

While the animal remains threatened under the endangered species act, close encounters with humanity have drawn headlines in Lincoln County this fall.

In November, authorities euthanized a 25-year-old adult male after it broke into a garage south of Libby. The grizzly, which had attacked a biologist in a 2018 surprise encounter, previously attempted to raid a barn near Big Cherry Creek in October.

Prior to that, two grizzly cubs died after getting struck by a train southeast of Trego. The amount of train-related grizzly deaths in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem — 52 since 1980 and eight this year by last count — spurred WildEarth Guardians and Western Watersheds Project to threaten railroad giant BNSF with a lawsuit.

And on Nov. 7, a hunter shot and killed a grizzly near Eureka that he said charged him near Sinclair Creek Trail. Authorities have since launched an investigation into the incident.

“The purpose of the Council is to develop recommendations for fundamental guidance and direction on key issues and challenges related to the conservation and management of grizzly bears in Montana, particularly those issues on which there is significant social disagreement,” Bullock stated in his executive order creating the working group.

In its previous meetings, the council has reviewed grizzly bear recovery history, population distribution, legal issues and interagency collaboration. Members are expected to meet five more times in locations across Montana.

All of the council’s meetings are open to the public. Those interested also can leave comments online at fwp.mt.gov/gbac.