#MapMonday: Grizzly Bears

To kick off Bear Awareness Week Lindsay talks to Erin and Russ, two of our field representatives who know how to play smart in bear country. You can check out the story map here.

Click to view video transcript

Hey there everybody! We are back again this week to share with you some wildlife facts that are bound to make you “smarter than the average bear”!

Did you know that just like lovable Yogi bear, real-life grizzlies are omnivores - they eat both plants and animals. While grizzlies are often seen as gigantic meat-eaters, around 75% of their diet can actually consist of plant material like berries and nuts.

And while much of their diet comes from their environment, humans have introduced grizzlies to another food source: unattended food and trash.

Like in Yogi’s hunt for a good picnic basket, the search for food can lead to conflict between bears and humans. Unfortunately for real-life grizzlies, human-related mortality is one of the top threats to long term recovery of populations in the continental United States.

That’s why Defenders has been hard at work promoting coexistence with grizzly bears to help protect them and us as populations grow and move to new locations in the western U.S.

Grizzlies in the continental U.S. can be found in Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, though they were historically far more widespread as you can see here in yellow.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established a set of Grizzly Bear Recovery Zones located in green here. Our long-term goal is to connect these grizzly populations, but in order to do that, we need your help!

For grizzlies to get from one place to another, they need to cross through areas where humans live, work, and play. Homes, businesses, roads, and outdoor recreation areas are scattered throughout this landscape, and neither people nor grizzlies look forward to being startled during their daily activities.

That’s why it’s so important that Defenders has staff in the field working to share information on how to coexist and make use of defenses and deterrents like bear spray.

Our field staff work to install equipment like electric fencing and food storage lockers to avoid unwanted interactions with grizzlies.

Defenders’ work to prevent conflicts with grizzlies started in the 1990s. Our popular Electric Fence Incentive program began in 2010 in an effort to keep grizzlies out of the places that often lead to conflict, like our garbage, bird feeders, beehives, and farms with livestock.

This work still continues today. Our senior representative for our Rockies and Plains Program, Erin Edge, lives and works in beautiful Missoula, Montana and has a passion for grizzly bear recovery. Let’s take it over to Erin to learn more!

Hey Erin, catch!

Thanks, Lindsay! Grizzly bears are made an iconic symbol of what remains wild in our world. Unfortunately, a large source of mortality continues to be human-caused.

When bears become food-conditioned because they repeatedly get into things like garbage, bird feeders, dog food, and livestock, it is not good for bears or for people.

Because of this, Defenders remains heavily invested in working with communities to prevent conflicts like this. One example is our Electric Fence Incentive Program. Hey Russ, can you tell them a little bit more about our program?

Thanks, Erin! We work with landowners, livestock producers, communities, agencies, other NGOs and really anybody that’s interested in securing attractants in their backyards.

In fact, over the past decade since this program began, we completed nearly 400 electric fence projects, across our large multistate project area many of which very similar to this garden fence project that’s in progress right here.

Of those participants, we’ve gone back and surveyed a lot of them who had their fence up for more than a year and 99% of them reported they had no conflicts with bears since their fence has gone up, so we know that this program is making a difference for people and for bears.

It’s really a win-win situation and something that we are really proud of. To learn more about our program and see if you qualify, you can visit us at defenders.org/got-grizzlies Back to you, Lindsay!

Thanks, Russ! Our story map, Coexisting with Grizzly Bears, highlights much of the work we’re doing to promote coexistence with grizzly bears as they expand their range.

Check it out to explore more about Defenders’ outreach and work on the ground. You can also support the work that Erin and Russ are doing to protect grizzly bears by donating to Defenders of Wildlife or by going online and adopting a grizzly!

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you all next #MapMonday!

Lindsay Rosa
Senior Conservation Scientist

As a Conservaion GIS Scientist with the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Lindsay leads geospatial analysis projects to improve conservation policies and practices.