US to hire two grizzly specialists in Montana amid conflicts


BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Department of the Interior is providing money for two specialists to help it manage grizzly bears in Montana following conflicts with landowners and livestock that often end in bears being killed by wildlife workers.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in letter to members of Montana’s congressional delegation that the agency would play a “more conclusive role” in dealing with problem bears.

Grizzlies are protected as a threatened species and hunting of them is not allowed. However, bears that prey on livestock or pose a threat to public safety are routinely killed.

Interior is entering a $250,000 contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services to hire the two bear management specialists.

The state is home to the largest grizzly populations in the U.S. outside Alaska, with more than 1,000 bears in northwestern Montana. An estimated 700 bears live in the Yellowstone region of Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Bernhardt fielded complaints from landowners calling for better management of bears during an October visit to Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front with U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte.