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47 grizzlies died this year in northwest Montana, some had a mysterious brain disease


There were 47 known or probable mortalities within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem in and around Glacier National Park in 2022, which is just below the record-breaking numbers from the recent past.

It’s the largest population of grizzly bears in the lower 48. Bears were killed for repeatedly preying on livestock or became a safety hazard due to food-conditioning, and accounted for 30 of those mortalities.

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks biologist Cecily Costello says there were also a few bears that were euthanized because they appeared to have some sort of disease impacting brain function.

“They were circling around. They looked like they had balance issues, they were just disoriented and were moving around oddly.”

Costello says FWP was able to perform a necropsy on one of those bears and confirmed it had encephalitis, which is the swelling of the brain. However, the cause was unknown.

Costello says the agency will be on the lookout for bears experiencing similar symptoms next year to determine whether these bears are part of a larger trend.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.