Grizzly moves from Kellogg to Kelly

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Photo courtesy Dwayne Reilander Grizzly bears are becoming more common in the Panhandle. Recently a bear that hibernated near Clark Fork made its way through the Panhandle to Kelly Creek.

A grizzly that denned northeast of Clark Fork near Montana’s Spar Lake has turned up in the Kelly Creek drainage in Idaho’s Clearwater forest.

According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the 2-year-old collared male bear that was observed in the Cabinet Mountains near Spar Lake in 2018 moved south across the Clark Fork River, where it spent the summer before returning to den in the Cabinets last winter.

The bear emerged in March, crossed the Clark Fork River in April and was located 40 miles southeast of Kellogg 10 days ago before making its way to the Kelly Creek drainage.

The bear was spotted by a black bear hunter in Unit 10, where the black bear hunting season is currently open.

Kelly Creek is a drainage of the North Fork of the Clearwater River, which flows into Dworshak Reservoir north of Orofino.

The bear moved from the St. Joe area south of Kellogg to Kelly Creek in three days, according to USFWS data.

Idaho Fish and Game, which manages the black bear hunting season in the state, is asking hunters throughout north and north central Idaho to make sure they can identify grizzly bears, and to be aware of the increased frequency of grizzlies.

“Black bear hunters in north-central Idaho, specifically those who are hunting in Unit 10 and 12, are asked to use increased vigilance after a radio-collared grizzly bear was spotted (there) by a hunter,” according to a USFWS press release.

Unit 10 and 12 are not an area where hunters would normally expect to encounter a grizzly bear, although grizzlies have been encountered there in the past. In 2007, a hunter killed a grizzly he thought was a black bear while hunting near Kelly Creek, according to USFWS.

“We want to make sure that hunters in the area be extra-vigilant and careful while afield, both in identifying their targets and while traveling to their hunting spot, because we do have at least one known grizzly bear in there,” said Jon Rachael, state game manager for Fish and Game.

A grizzly bear that last year raided chicken coops near Athol was shot and killed this spring after killing sheep north of Bonners Ferry, and a grizzly was documented in the Coeur d’Alene mountains northwest of Magee this spring.

Grizzly bears are federally protected. A man who shot a grizzly bear north of Bonners Ferry was fined $1,000 in 2011 and a grizzly bear was shot near Cataldo 10 years ago after it killed a bull elk at an elk farm.

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