Grizzly bear in Coeur d’Alenes is reminder to be bear aware

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  • Photo by Kara Campbell A collared grizzly bear is roaming around the Magee area in upper Unit 4. Idaho Fish and Game biologists photographed the tracks of the bear April 29 near Independence Creek.

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  • Photo by Kara Campbell A collared grizzly bear is roaming around the Magee area in upper Unit 4. Idaho Fish and Game biologists photographed the tracks of the bear April 29 near Independence Creek.

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A grizzly bear was confirmed this week to be roaming around the Coeur d’Alene Mountains northeast of Magee.

Idaho Fish and Game biologists came across the bear’s tracks at Independence Creek in upper Unit 4, about five miles northeast of the Magee ranger station, but didn’t see the bear itself.

The bear is collared and is originally from the Cabinet Mountains, Fish and Game spokesperson Kiira Siitari said.

Idaho Fish and Game wants to make sure spring black bear hunters are aware of grizzlies in the area, and that they can identify the difference between black and grizzly bears.

“Size and color of the animal are not reliable indicators of species,” Siitari said. “It’s best to look at multiple features in order to make the right call.”

Grizzlies typically have short, rounded ears, a dish-face profile and a hump on their upper back around the shoulders, Siitari said.

Grizzly bears are federally protected in northern Idaho and there is no hunting season.

Siitari said her department’s guidelines for grizzly country include carrying bear spray and to have it accessible. Hunt with a partner and before you split up, communicate your plans. Make noise when you’re not hunting, especially while traveling around creeks and thick vegetation where bears aren’t easily visible. Most attacks occur when bears are surprised at close range, Siitari said. Retrieve meat quickly and hang it 10 feet off the ground at least 200 yards from camp.

Black bears are common throughout the Panhandle while grizzlies are most common in the Cabinet and Selkirk mountain range in the Panhandle’s Unit 1, but they have been seen in all the other Panhandle units with the exception of Unit 5.

About 40 grizzlies live in the Cabinets, Siitari said, and some of the bears occasionally make their way into the Coeur d’Alene National Forest. A few years ago, a female grizzly originally from Montana’s Flathead forest denned on the Gold Divide summit between Montana and the St. Joe River. More than a month ago an unconfirmed report of a grizzly near Enaville was noted by Idaho Fish and Game. Last year, a grizzly that raided chicken coops near Athol was captured and moved north to the Kootenai River. A grizzly was shot at a Cataldo elk farm a decade ago.

Having a collared grizzly bear traveling around the area is unusual in part, because few bears get the honor of being collared and monitored. It’s a small percentage of the North Idaho grizzly population.

“It’s really rare when we see collared animals move through,” Siitari said.

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