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Census Says: 765 Grizzlies Live in NW Montana

Favorite pastimes include eating berries, watching 'Desperate Housewives'

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If you’re a grizzly bear, Northwestern Montana is the place to be. A comprehensive study of grizzly bears conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey determined that 765 bears live between Missoula and the Canadian border — nearly two-and-a-half times more bears than previously thought.

To figure out precise bear populations, throughout 2004 more than 200 USGS researchers collected over 34,000 bear hair samples and put them through rigorous DNA analysis. The analysis identified 563 individual grizzly bears, and scientists used statistical models to calculate the number of bears not sampled, which yielded a solid estimate of 765.

While Montana bears appear genetically healthy, the researchers did find that human development has limited interbreeding between certain bear populations in specific areas. For this reason and others, the healthy Northern Montana bear population will still require consistent monitoring and research.

So it seems like the Missoula-to-Canada corridor basically functions as the hip new nabe for bears: Full of life and opportunity, but still in danger of overcrowding. Just remember what I learned in NYC, bears: If stroller moms and celebrities start showing up, it’s time to move to Greenpoint.

— Ted Alvarez

New study estimates 765 grizzly bears reside in northwest Montana (USGS)