13 grizzly bears gather in Montana in rare sighting; is it a family reunion?

A wildlife biologist located 13 grizzly bears congregated on a ranch in Montana.
A wildlife biologist located 13 grizzly bears congregated on a ranch in Montana. Photo: Courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

A wildlife official tracking a radio-collared grizzly bear along the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana located the bear on a ranch near Dupuyer, but it wasn’t alone.

Mike Madel, a grizzly bear management specialist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, counted 12 other grizzly bears bedded down in the snowy foothills in what was a rare sighting.

“I don’t know if anybody has really observed that many bears together before,” Madel told the Great Falls Tribune.

Madel made the observation from an airplane and took photos of the bears on the Dan Freeman ranch. Could it have been a family reunion?

“It almost seemed like a gathering of females with young who were related or familiar with each other,” Madel said.

Wayne Kasworm, a grizzly bear biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, concurred, telling the Tribune he’s never seen that many grizzly bears in one location in Montana and that it’s possible they could be related.

“That’s at least one of the theories out there [that] these bears have some relationship with one another in terms of mother-daughter and possibly even grandmother,” Kasworm said.

One of the grizzly bears wore a radio collar. Photo: Courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
One of the grizzly bears wore a radio collar. Photo: Courtesy of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The biologist said young female bears typically adopt part of their mother’s home range when they part ways whereas males go much farther away from their mother’s range.

Dead animals such as bison will draw grizzly bears together. Brooks Falls in Alaska is a popular bear-viewing spot that brings several grizzly bears together at once during the spawning run.

But in this case, there were no carcasses or food sources, just a mass gathering.

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Kasworm speculated that is could simply be an anomaly.

It should be noted that Madel informed Freeman of the large number of grizzly bears on his property and then gave him something he hopes he never has to use: bear spray.

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