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Originally published November 4, 2005 at 12:00 AM | Page modified November 4, 2005 at 8:01 PM

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Eleven grizzly bears illegally killed in northwestern Montana

Federal officials plan to offer a substantial reward for people who provide information leading to the arrest of those responsible for illegal killing grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies this year.

KALISPELL, Mont. — Federal officials plan to offer a substantial reward for people who provide information leading to the arrest of those responsible for illegal killing grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies this year.

The 2005 tally of 11 illegal kills is the highest in seven years and accounted for nearly half the 24 documented grizzly bear deaths so far this year, said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

"We're on the verge of going out with a big reward for illegal kills," Servheen said. "This illegal mortality is something that is very serious."

Servheen provided an accounting of the 2005 mortality statistics this week to a panel of state and federal officials in charge of grizzly bear recovery in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem — an area that includes Glacier National Park, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and surrounding lands in northwest Montana.

Servheen said this year's total of known human-caused bear deaths also includes seven that were destroyed by bear managers because of conflicts with people; four that died due to management handling; one killed in self-defense and one killed by a car.

But the illegal kills raise the greatest concern, he said.

"This illegal mortality is going up and we are deeply concerned that they are occurring, because we certainly don't know about them all," he said.

Last year's total mortality count was 34 bears, the highest since grizzlies were listed as a threatened species.

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