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Insecticide found in open garage in Montana kills grizzly bear that weighed almost 150 pounds

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CARTER, Mont. - A grizzly bear in north-central Montana died after getting into insecticide in an open garage.

The female bear, not yet an adult, was found Monday about 11 miles northwest of the community of Carter, which has fewer than 100 residents. It is about 30 miles northeast of Great Falls.

The female had been seen in previous days traveling with a sibling and getting into unsecured garbage, pet food, birdseed and other attractions they found near the Teton River. Her sibling is still believed to be in the area.

"We've been tracking the sub-adult grizzly group for the last two weeks," said Wesley Sarmento, a bear management specialist with the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. "We've been trying to capture them because they've been getting into pet food and grain spills."

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Wildlife officers still are working to trap the second bear, Sarmento said Wednesday.

The bear that died was about 143 pounds and died within hours of ingesting several different insecticides. The carcass is being taken to the department's wildlife health lab in Bozeman to confirm the cause of death.

The state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has received several reports in recent weeks of grizzly bears out on the plains east of the Rocky Mountain Front. Bears in search of food can get into grain spills, garbage, pet food, bird seed and other attractants that are not secured or cleaned up.

"This is fairly unique to have grizzlies in this area," Sarmento said. "But it's becoming more and more common each year. There have been sightings along the Teton River for the last several years."

People have seen what they thought were bears in the Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge recently, he said. So visitors to the area, which encompasses 19 square miles about 50 miles east of the Rocky Mountains and 12 miles north of Great Falls, should be aware of bears and carry bear spray.

Grizzly bears, also called brown bears, are one of three bear species found in North America, according to Defenders of Wildlife advocacy organization. The others are black and polar bears.

Only about 1,800 grizzlies live wild in the lower 48 states, mostly in Montana's Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, which includes Glacier National Park, and the Yellowstone National Park area, the group said.

Female grizzly bears, which start breeding at 4 or 5 years old, can weigh 200 to 450 pounds and live 20 to 25 years.

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Black bears, the species that can be found in at least 40 states with an estimated 600,000 in North America, weigh an average of 150 to 300 pounds with females being on the smaller side. They live about 10 years but can live more than 30 years.

To safely scare away grizzly bears, Montana officials suggest using a vehicle and loud noises. However, the bears must be not be injured because they are a federally protected species.

Follow Sarah Dettmer on Twitter: @GFTrib_SDettmer

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