The collar of “Grizzly #726” was recovered from a stream on USDA Sheep Experiment Station property on September 12, 2012. He had been fitted with the radio collar just 18 days before, and the collar was cut off and hidden in a stream after the bear went missing. The healthy bear that was 3-4 years old and weighed nearly 400 pounds, and its last live location put it in the same area as a flock of government-owned sheep. A spent rifle cartridge was recovered from the government sheepherder’s camp, but no one was ever charged with the crime.
The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station is run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and grazes approximately 2,000 sheep on 16,000 acres of land high in Montana’s Centennial mountains. Biologists widely regard the Centennial Mountains as an important travel corridor for threatened grizzly bears and other wildlife because the range connects Yellowstone National Park to large wilderness areas in Idaho. Putting sheep in the middle of this corridor has created conflict with wildlife passage. In the past, two entire packs of wolves have been removed by aerial gunning and leghold traps in retribution for livestock losses on Sheep Station property. Eleven black bears were killed in a single year on Sheep Station property because of these livestock conflicts.
On May 17, 2013, Cottonwood Environmental Law Center, Western Watersheds Project, Gallatin Wildlife Foundation, Native Ecosystems Council and Yellowstone Buffalo Foundation filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Idaho challenging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Biological Opinion, which states that “no known grizzly bear mortalities have occurred in or near the action area in the recent past.” However, meeting notes between the FWS and Sheep Station obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request state that within the past eight years, there have been several grizzly bear mortalities nearby the Sheep Station, and the determination was made before Grizzly #726 was killed. Plaintiffs are asking the court to enjoin grazing in grizzly habitat until the Fish and Wildlife Service has completed a new biological opinion that considers all the grizzly deaths in the area.
Anyone with information about the killing of Grizzly #726 should contact Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks at 1(800)Tip-Mont. Callers can remain anonymous and still collect the $6,500 reward upon the successful conviction of the killer.
More information about the litigation is available at http://tinyurl.com/mr5ltl3
More information about Grizzly #726 is available at http://tinyurl.com/khbdm2b