GREAT FALLS - State bear managers seeking to capture and collar female grizzly bears as part of a population count recently trapped a 7-foot-6-inch male grizzly that weighed 750 pounds after a winter of hibernation.
Mike Madel, bear management specialist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, said it took two scales and a hydraulic crane to weigh the 8-year-old bruin - which had 3 1/2-inch claws and a neck circumference of 4 feet.
“This bear was just a beautiful bear,” Madel said.
Madel said the big male with the bronze head, golden back and dark chocolate legs could weigh as much as 900 pounds by fall.
“This is really a large male,” he said. In fact, it is the second-largest male grizzly ever recorded in the northern Rockies, Madel said.
Madel captured the bear he dubbed “Big Daddy” on May 24. He was trying to capture female grizzlies near Choteau to fit them with radio collars to track their movements and whether they have cubs.
“We actually were trying to avoid males,” Madel said.
But he decided to put a radio collar on the bear to track its range.
Madel said he didn't know the big bear even existed.
“Here's a bear that's down on the Front, and he's accustomed to moving in and around human activity, and he's never caused a conflict before,” Madel said.
The average-sized male grizzly along the Rocky Mountain Front is 600 pounds, while females are around 300 to 325 pounds.
Madel, who has been managing bears on the Front for 24 years, wonders if the bear he trapped this spring was sired by the largest male grizzly ever recorded in the northern Rockies: an 8-foot, 800-plus pound bruin trapped in 2003 in the Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area northwest of Choteau.
“This bear,” he said, “looked very much like that bear.”
Madel collected hair from the 2003 bear, but an Idaho lab lost the samples, making it impossible to know if they're related.
Madel said the younger bear captured this spring hasn't reached its full size.
“He's got some growing to do,” Madel said.