Population study accidentally captures huge griz in northern Montana

 While the Alaskan (Kodiak) brown bear (Ursus arctos middendorffi) tops a thousand pounds, that size is very rare for the interior grizzly, but Montana Bear Management Specialist Mike Madel just snared the second largest ever recorded in the Northern Rockies near Choteau, Montana. The bear weighed 750 pounds and could reach 900 by fall. The biggest bear (Griz No. 175) might be this one’s father.

Rocky Mountain Front grizzlies tend to be larger than Yellowstone grizzlies because of better food sources.

Story. Capture of big grizzly raises paternity questions. By Karl Puckett. Great Falls Tribune Staff Writer

post 1226






  1. Davej Avatar

    Beautiful animal. It will be ironic if bears like this are needed to repopulate Alberta and southern BC.

  2. Monty Avatar

    In the book “Track of the Grizzley”, the Craighead brothers, who did the first Grizzley reseach in Yellowstone in the 1960’s, claim they trapped an 1,100 pound bear in the Pelican Valley that they called “Bruno”.

  3. TPageCO Avatar

    Must be something in the water near Choteau… In Spring ’05, I was staying at Pine Butte Ranch (TNC) when we heard a local report of a 600 lb. male killed on a nearby ranch in a fight w/ another bear. Maybe one of the two bruisers mentioned in the article was the winner.

  4. Howard Avatar

    I don’t know if this was “Bruno” or not, but I have heard tales of an enormous Yellowstone grizzly in decades past that was a somewhat famous attraction at the dump in the days before feeding the bears was discouraged. Of course, in the case of this particular bear, his massive size may in part be attributable to a non-stop buffet of human left-overs that was afforded the bears before the Park Service closed the dump. Unfortunately, I believe this particular bear was eventually destroyed. Thankfully, the open dumps and bear feedings are long gone from Yellowstone now.
    Just a point of interest, on the other size of the “size” coin, several years ago when I was in Yellowstone, a back country ranger told me of a small “runt” female grizzly that had become extremely adept at hunting elk. Like most grizzlies, she preyed on elk calves during the spring, but unlike most grizzlies, she regularly hunted adult elk year round. The ranger remarked that she was very agile and had turned her “runty” stature into an advantage to exploit a food source. She also had cubs that season, and the rangers were very interested to see if they too developed into regular ungulate predators from watching mom. Unfortunately, I never found out what became of her or her cubs, but I thought it was very interesting.

  5. SAP Avatar

    nitpick: the “middendorffi” subspecies designation is probably going to be scrapped based on phylogenetic studies. Apparently, the mitochondrial DNA of Kodiak bears was really not much different from coastal browns on the mainland.

    See p.415 of this article by UofIdaho’s Dr. Lisette Waits:


    Monty, “Bruno” was huge — you can see photos of him in John Craighead’s 1995 book. Garbage, as John Craighead has pointed out, can be quite nutritious and probably accounted for the size of that bear and other dump-era whoppers. Overall, Greater Yellowstone is a fairly tough place for bears to make a living, so they don’t get that big anymore.

  6. Ralph Maughan Avatar


    Don’t you suppose ursus arctos will turn out to be a lot like canis lupus?

  7. SAP Avatar

    Ralph – I think so. Maybe strikingly similar. I have not read the Waits et al. paper in a few years, but it seems like there was some concordance between genetic “clades” (distinct groups based on phylogenetics) and glacial ice sheets that funneled different waves of migrant Ursus arctos in different directions. Could there be a similar geologic influence on wolf distribution? Fascinating stuff. Unfortunately, some of those genes may only reside in museum specimens now (Olympic Peninsula wolves, California grizzlies . . . ).

  8. Monty Avatar

    What was the name of Craighead’s 1995 book or was the picture in the “Track of the Grizzley? Thanks

  9. SAP Avatar

    Monty – I’m pretty sure the photo is in the 1995 book, “The Grizzly Bears of Yellowstone.” It’s a big hardback, cost about $100 when it came out; you may be able to get it used. Unfortunately, I loaned mine out a few months ago and have yet to get it back!

  10. Monty Avatar

    Thanks, SAP.

    My last word on this subject is that, if my memory serves me correctly, the Craigheads in their book, “Track of the Grizzley”, indicated that “Bruno” was not a human “Garbage” Bear. As this animal was radio collared & tracked for several years, they found that this bear lived entirely within the 400 hundred thousand acre (or so) area in Yellowstone NP bounded on the north by the Lamar Valley, on the south by the “Fishing Bridge or Cody Road, the west by Hayden Valley and on the east by the National Forest Wilderness area.

  11. SAP Avatar

    Monty – thanks for prompting me to take another look at “Track of the Grizzly.” The adventures they had — and the good-heartedness of the Craigheads, too.

    Ok, looking at p157, I see where they found Bruno on the south side of Yellowstone Lake one spring. His life range was over 1,000 square miles! Wow — think of all the country and all the things that old bear saw in those travels. It’s that mystery and awe that keeps me enthralled by grizzlies.

    On p156, the state that Bruno “had visited the Trout Creek dump in summer, [but] he was not at all dependent on this human food source, and all the food he consumed during the last two months before hibernating was foraged from nature.”

    Bruno weighed 890 pounds when they capture him on 5 Sept 1964. They had first captured him in July 1959, at a weight of 520 pounds. That would indicate that Bruno was already an adult when they first started tracking him, so we can’t say for sure how much he ate garbage in his youth. They refer to him as “subdominant,” so maybe his personality made him want to avoid the crowding and aggression of the dumps as he got older.

  12. Monty Avatar

    Thanks again, my memory failed me about the Bear’s weight & his primary habitat & like all “fishermen” we tend to expand the size of the fish that got away. Needless to say that is one big “Bruno”!

    As I have been visting Yellowstone NP for 50 years, the Pelican Valley has always been a special place due to “Buno’s shadow”.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan