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This Wandering Grizzly Bear’s Epic Journey Will Astound You

"Ethyl" the wandering bear seen with her captured cub shortly before emarking on her journey.

The wandering grizzly bear has traveled 2,800 miles across mountains, highways, and city boundaries, and researchers have no idea why.

Biologists were tracking the 20-year-old sow, nicknamed Ethyl across Montana and Idaho for nearly eight years until her radio collar recently shut off.

According to the Missoulian, Ethyl has made a 2,800-mile journey, which is equivalent to the distance between Florida and Washington. It’s highly unusual for a grizzly bear to wander so far and for so long.

“The one thing we can say is this was not representative of normal bear movement, and certainly not female grizzly bear movement,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “She had some really bizarre travels.”

Ethyl has crossed mountain peaks, forests, highways, interstates, landfills, major city boundaries, downtown areas, and backyards without interfering with humans. That may be because she was captured by humans twice, and doesn’t want it to happen again. Her captures could also explain why she has embarked on such an epic walkabout.

Ethyl grew up near Lake Blaine, Idaho in the Bigfork Mountains. In 2006, she was captured while stealing apples from an orchard and was moved to the Wounded Buck Creek drainage area.

The sow’s love of apples got the best of her again in 2012 when she was captured in another orchard with her 2-year-old cub. Ethyl and her cub were relocated to another remote wilderness area and shortly after left her cub and started to roam.

grizzly journey
A map showing the rambling route Ethyl has taken on her epic journey. Image: Rob Chaney/The Missoulan

Ethyl began her journey roaming the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana and then headed north to the Mission Mountains. From there, she traveled further north towards Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and denned in the Panhandle. Ethyl even stopped at a few apple orchards along the way.

She lost her collar in October. The last place she was seen was heading west to Eureka through Glacier National Park.

Female bears normally have a home range of 50 to 150 miles, and males can travel up to 600 miles, so it’s bizarre that Ethyl has roamed so far.

“It kind of makes you wonder what’s on her mind,” said Kellogg Police Chief David Wuolle, after the bear passed by his town.

In her entire three-year ramble, the one place Ethyl missed was her home range in the Bigfork Mountains. Maybe she was lost trying to find her way home. Maybe she wanted to sample the region’s apple orchards.

Maybe she was lost trying to find her way home.

Perhaps she wanted to sample the region’s orchards.

Or maybe she’s like those of us with wanderlust, who sometimes just feel the need to ramble.

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This Wandering Grizzly Bear’s Epic Journey Will Astound You