A grizzly bear videoed lumbering through a farm field in the lowlands around Creston, Montana, on Monday is the talk of the town and has become a national sensation.
But these prairie grizzlies are hardly anything new there, it’s just that many newcomers haven’t become used to seeing them yet, a lifelong resident told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.
“Yes, they (the grizzlies) have always been here. It’s just that there are a lot more people. We’ve had a huge influx of people recently,” said Troy Tyler.
“We’ve had several in our yard over the years. I was even bluff charged in my yard once, but that was my fault. I walked right up on him,” he added.
Creston is near the Flathead River, north of Montana’s legendary Flathead Lake and southeast of Kalispell.
Out For A Day Stroll
It’s also not far south from prime grizzly habitat in Glacier National Park, so the general area is known to have a healthy population of grizzlies, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Greg Lemon told Cowboy State Daily.
What was unusual about Monday’s sighting near Woody’s County Store near the intersection of Montana Highways 35 and 206 was that the large grizzly was lumbering through the field in broad daylight, Lemon said, adding there weren’t any reports of problems with the bear.
“They aren’t as visible in that area typically,” Lemon said. “It was just that it was out in the open during the day.”
Tyler said he saw the grizzly from his vehicle while driving on a nearby road. He didn’t stop to gawk. But he said many people – apparently not so used to seeing a huge bear out on the flatlands – did. And the grizzly wasn’t happy about that.
“He looked pretty agitated by the fact that all those people were stopped there. He was tossing his head around,” Tyler said.
Jen Sealy, who works at Woody’s Country Store, said folks were excited to see the bear and still chattering about it Wednesday.
She said she saw the bear, but it was quite a distance out from the store so it was difficult for her to see it in detail. But she was OK with viewing it from a distance.
“It was kind of cool,” she said, adding that grizzlies will take daylight treks through Creston “once in a blue moon.”
Creston Is A Grizzly Travel Stop
Tyler said the farmland and prairies around Creston are apparently a pass-through area for grizzlies, especially during the fall when they’re trying to fatten up for winter hibernation.
The grizzlies usually move during odd hours and know how to use cover, so they aren’t frequently spotted by crowds like the one Monday.
Tyler said he knows of one bear in particular that makes a long trek each fall that takes him through Creston.
“He travels all the way from Clearwater Junction up to Whitefish (Montana), and then turns around and comes back. That’s about 140 miles each way, and he does it every fall,” he said. “He has regular stops he makes. I think he knows where some apple orchards are around there. We’ve had him in our yard.”
That’s not the bear that was caught on video Monday. Tyler thinks that bear was on a similar pass-through, looking for whatever it could forage.
“I’m guessing he’s long gone by now. My guess is he was headed toward the river,” he said.
He added that he’s accustomed to the grizzlies coming through, and doesn’t mind it.
“You just always have to be a little ‘bear aware’ around here,” Tyler said.
Though typically associated with mountain wilderness, Grizzlies are actually a native prairie species. In Montana, they have been expanding their territory in the lowlands. Farther to the east, out on the northern prairies around Choteau, Montana, they’re becoming a more common sight.
Mark Heinz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.