Nobody knows why a 20-year-old grizzly sow has spent the last two years traveling over 2,800 miles between Montana and Idaho, yet the bear is still on the move and shows no signs of slowing down. Researchers have named her Ethyl, and they are just as stumped on why this particular bear has decided to take up traveling. Biologists have been tracking her sporadic movements between Idaho and Montana since 2012 thanks to a radio collar. According to The Missoulian, Ethyl was last seen near Glacier National Park before she lost her transmitter late in October.
“The one thing we can say is this was not representative of normal bear movement, and certainly not female grizzly bear movement,” Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery program coordinator for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, told The Missoulian. “She had some really bizarre travels.”
The Coeur d’Alene Press reported that Ethyl was first captured an collared in 2006 in an apple orchard near Kalispell, Montana. Researchers said the bear was not aggressive, but was moved nonetheless for her own safety and equipped with a radio collar, which tracked her movements until it fell off in 2010. Life was uneventful for Ethyl until she showed up in another apple orchard near where she was originally caught, this time with a cub. Wildlife officials relocated her once again, although this time the bear decided that she wanted to leave her home range. Leaving her two-year-old cub in the wilderness near the Puzzle Creek drainage, Ethyl started to roam north, making her way through the Bitterroot Mountains and into Idaho.
According to the University of Montana, grizzlies typically have a home range of only a few hundred miles at most. Male grizzlies can hold a territory of up to 600 square miles, while females have a home range of only about 50 to 150 square miles. It is highly uncommon for a grizzly to travel widely, especially to the extent that Ethyl has.
“It kind of makes you wonder what’s on her mind,” Kellog Police Chief David Wuolle said when the bear passed by his town months ago.
Nothing appeared to slow Ethyl down either, including roads, highways, suburbs, stretches of wilderness, and even steep, mountainous terrain. Along the way, she even managed to drop by a few apple orchards as well. Researchers said Ethyl was last seen headed west towards Eureka before she lost her collar.
File image courtesy John Good/National Park Service