A Choteau man driving south on U.S. Highway 89 about 2.5 miles south of Choteau struck and killed a young adult male grizzly on May 22 at about 9:48 p.m., Teton County Sheriff Keith VanSetten said on Wednesday.
He said Delbert Bradley was the driver of the mid-sized pickup truck that struck the bear as it was crossing the highway. VanSetten said a Teton County deputy sheriff, the Montanan Highway Patrol and a Fish, Wildlife and Parks game warden from Great Falls responded to the accident.
VanSetten said Bradley was not injured but his pickup sustained extensive damage.
Montana FWP grizzly management specialist of Choteau Mike Madel on Wednesday said the 5.5-year-old male bear probably weighed between 400 and 500 pounds.
Madel said the bear was struck near where the highway crosses the Teton River and was probably walking in the riparian corridor. He said the bear died in a nearby driveway.
The grizzly management specialist said the FWP warden, Brett Logan, took the bear’s carcass back to the FWP Region 4 Headquarters in Great Falls. Madel said he had captured this bear for research two years ago on the Pine Butte Swamp Preserve and that it had ear tags and a lip tattoo identifying it as bear No. 664. This bear had no known conflicts with humans or livestock, he said.
Madel said the bear was unique in that it was missing its toes and claws on both back feet and one front foot. He said he could not tell whether this was a birth defect or caused by an accident. The one front paw that had all of its toes and claws was also bigger than the other feet and bigger than one would expect on a bear of this size, he said.
He said this is not the first bear collision fatality along the Front. In the past decade or so, drivers have hit and killed grizzlies on U.S. Highway 89 north of Choteau, on the Teton Canyon Road and on the Swift Reservoir road.
He said there is no penalty for accidentally killing a bear in a vehicle collision even though grizzlies are listed as a threatened species and protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.