Washington Wildlife captures, monitors, and releases first female grizzly bear

Washington
Image credit: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

SPOKANE, Wash — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife recently made history by capturing its first female grizzly bear. The scientific team fitted her with a radio collar and promptly released the grizzly back into the wild so they can study the Inland Northwest’s grizzly bear population.

According to Washington state officials, four grizzly bears were tracked previously in 1985, 2016, and 2018, but each of them was male. This is the first time that state environmental scientists will have a chance to monitor the behavior of a female grizzly.

The bear was captured near the Washington-Idaho border at Metaline Falls, which is under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service. Three of her cubs dispersed into the forest as biologists performed a health check and outfitted the grizzly with her new radio collar. The yearlings returned to their mother shortly after the humans left them.

“A group of bears – a mother and three cubs – were photographed on another occasion on a game camera in the same area three to four weeks prior to the capture,” said Wayne Kasworm, a grizzly bear biologist. “The natal collar – the white ring around the neck – of one of the cubs leads us to believe this is the same family of bears.”

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To the surprise of many, Northeast Washington has a healthy grizzly bear population that roams between this state, northern Idaho, and southeastern British Columbia.

“Currently there are believed to be at least 70 to 80 grizzly bears in the Selkirk Grizzly Bear Recovery Zone,” said Kasworm. “About half those bears live on the Canadian side of the border, with the other half on the U.S. side.”

Grizzly bears are considered threatened under United States’ Endangered Species Act, and the species is considered endangered in Washington state. By monitoring these animals, scientists hope to study the grizzly bear population and ensure that they do not go instinct in the state.

“Understanding how the bears are using the landscape will aid biologists in advancing recovery of the species,” said Hannah Anderson, WDFW’s Diversity Division Manager.

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