Grizzly Sightings Confirmed in Montana’s Upper Big Hole for First Time in a Century

Grizzlies Confirmed in Montana's Upper Big Hole for First Time in A Century

A grizzly bear.Denali National Park and Preserve

For the first time in a century, grizzly bear sightings have been confirmed in Montana's Upper Big Hole, one of the state's revered watersheds, thanks to its blue-ribbon trout fishing, Billings Gazette reports.

According to Big Hole Watershed Committee, the bear sightings are further signs of the species' recovery in the region. "We knew grizzly bear presence in the area was only a matter of time," said Dean Peterson, a rancher in the area and a member of BHWC.

Kevin Frey of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks corroborated the claims, telling BHWC, “It's hard to say if we are seeing one bear or multiple bears at this point, but the range has been near 40 miles across the Upper Big Hole. That's not surprising. These bears can roam a great distance.”

The Missoulian reports that state biologists are unsure whether the bears, or bear, entered the Big Hole area from the south via the Yellowstone ecosystem, or from north Montana. However, the Missoulian piece—published yesterday, Aug. 31—somewhat contradicts other reports published today, Sept 1. In the story, Frey is quoted as saying, "'We've got no indication [grizzlies have] moved as far north' as the Upper Big Hole yet."

Field & Stream contacted Frey for clarification but has yet to receive a response.

The removal of the grizzly bear's endangered status in the West, and in Montana, has caused much talk over the past several months. The Fish and Wildlife Service considers the species long recovered and is seeking to remove federal protections from it. Montana, in particular, is planning to open a limited grizzly hunting season, should the grizzly delisting move forward.

People who encounter grizzlies in the Upper Big Hole area are asked to provide photo documentation of bears or tracks to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.