COLUMBIA FALLS -
Bears versus chickens-- it's definitely not a fair fight, but wildlife experts keep seeing this face off more and more. They say something as simple as a few hobby chickens can, and has, led to bear deaths.
"Everybody seems to want hobby chickens," said Chris Servheen with the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
"My grand baby saw them at Murdoch's and she fell in love with them. We got 6 and right now we've got 25 or 30," said Jim Hunter.
Hunter has lived in Columbia Falls for decades. For the last three years he has kept chickens, ever since his granddaughter first fell for these cluckers.
"She kicks at them and they chase her all over the place and she likes it," said Hunter.
This is a set-up FWP says they're seeing more and more: people who keep chickens more for fun than anything else.
Hunter and his family eat the eggs, but it's certainly not saving them any money when you factor in the cost of corn, heat lamps, and wire fencing, but it's what he isn't investing in that worries experts like Chris Servheen.
"It's crazy that we lose a Grizzly bear because of a couple chickens," said Servheen.
Servheen says that bears are getting a taste for chicken, meaning his office and many across the state are getting calls about Grizzlies in the chicken coop.
"The bears learn to eat chickens," explained Servheen, "The people lose their chickens and have damage to their chicken coops, and the end result is increasing numbers of dead bears."
He says the only way to get around this is electric fencing, but that costs a lot more money than just getting some hens and feed.
Hunter hasn't seen a bear near his home for at least five years and has no plans to get rid of the chickens.
"'Til she's a senior in college I guess," said Hunter.
Grizzly bears are still protected under the Endangered Species Act. That means you can't shoot them unless you or someone else is in danger.