Two grizzly bears — a mother and a male cub — were captured and euthanized in Montana after “several conflicts with people,” wildlife authorities said. The bears repeatedly broke into cabins, garages, outdoor freezers, unsecured garbage and a trailer in search of food, according to the the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

The department said in a news release that the decision to euthanize both animals followed “numerous reports” of instances where they damaged properties in pursuit of human food, even after officials attempted to relocate the 6-year-old mother and cub from a populated area back to the wild. 

Initial reports placed the two grizzly bears in the Fortine area of Lincoln County, in northwestern Montana, where they were linked to a number of reported break-ins to unsecured garbage in early August. Bear specialists then moved the mother and cub to a forested area near Frozen Lake and Tuchuck Mountain along the Canadian border. 

A female bear buries its head in a hole it has dug in the ground in Montana.

John Charles Hansen / Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Department

But the bears proceeded to travel about 35 miles south, to the northern fork of the Flathead River, where they “began seeking food sources by breaking into cabins, garages, outdoor freezers, and a trailer,” officials said, and the two were captured. 

Because reports and video footage indicated that the mother and cub “were severely food conditioned and habituated to people,” the animals were euthanized according to guidelines set by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, an organization that works with state and local authorities in parts of the western United States to manage grizzly bear populations. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was also consulted.

“Food-conditioned and habituated bears are those that have sought and obtained unnatural foods, destroyed property, or displayed aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans,” the Montana wildlife department said, noting that “hazing and aversive conditioning” are usually unsuccessful in attempting to reverse that kind of behavior. Bears that are food-conditioned and habituated have grown to be too comfortable around people after eating unnatural or explicitly human food. They can no longer be relocated because of the potential threats they pose to human safety.

Earlier this month, officials closed part of a national park in southwestern Montana after a hunter was severely mauled by a grizzly bear. And on Sept. 2, authorities killed another grizzly after it broke into a house near West Yellowstone. That grizzly had fatally mauled a woman on a forest trail in July, and also attacked a person in Idaho three years ago.

Finding ways to coexist with grizzly bears in Montana