SPOKANE – In a first for Washington state, wildlife biologists recently captured and fitted a female grizzly bear with a radio collar.
The bear, accompanied by three yearling offspring, was then released to help biologists learn more about grizzly bears in Washington state, said the state Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The bear was captured about 10 miles from the Washington-Idaho border near Metaline Falls on U.S. Forest Service land by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists.
The three yearlings dispersed into the surrounding woods while biologists did a general health check on the mother and fitted her collar, then returned to be with mom when the humans went away.
Biologists were alerted to the bears’ presence through images captured on cameras inside the Selkirk grizzly bear recovery zone in a remote area of the Selkirk Mountains. The area is one of six recovery zones identified by the federal agency’s species recovery plan.
North Cascades is one of the zones.
Biologists say they believe the recently collared female is a resident of the area, not one from outside of Washington.
“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, grizzly bear biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “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.”
Four adult males were captured in 1985, 2016 and 2018, but this was the first instance of a female capture.
Kaswork said officials believe there are 70-80 grizzlies in the Selkirk zone, with about half on the Canadian side of the border and half on the U.S. side.
Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act and as an endangered species in Washington.