Defenders Earns Plaudits at Missoula Bear Conference

How many bear biologists does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Probably just one. But it takes a whole lot more of them to keep bears out of trouble across the country and around the world.

Erin Edge stands guard at her grizzly bear display at a conference in Missoula.

That’s why 300 wildlife professionals descended on Missoula, Montana two weeks ago for a three-day workshop to learn how they can better protect both bears and people. Attendees of the 4th International Human-Bear Conflicts Workshop included NGOs, international and national agencies, tribal members, corporations and other interested parties who are looking for ways to help bears and people coexist.

To coincide with the workshop, Defenders launched an expansion of our highly successful grizzly bear electric fence incentive program (see full press release). This year, landowners in eligible counties in Washington, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming will be reimbursed 50% of the cost of electric fencing (up to $500) to secure bear attractants, including chicken coops, beehives, compost piles and more.

Check out the nifty advertisement and poster we created to help promote the program, and click here to download the incentive form.

Bear Aware Coordinator Erin Edge represented Defenders very well during the workshop, providing important information about all our bear coexistence projects. On Wednesday, she was even given a round of applause for all Defenders work to protect grizzly bears and called on stage by Mike Madel, Montana Fish Wildlife and Park’s bear management specialist, to talk about the fencing incentive program.

The following day she was also quoted in the Missoulian:

Fencing systems cost around $300 and up, depending on the size and complexity. The nonprofit group Defenders of Wildlife has contributed more than $200,000 to subsidize private fencing projects, and currently offers grants paying 50 percent of the project cost up to $500.

Ranchers and sheep herders have been quick to adopt the fences, while smaller operations like the ones that raise chickens or goats have been slowly coming along, according to Erin Edge, the group’s Bear Aware coordinator. In addition to solar cells, some people have had success with wind turbines in places with less sunlight.

“Every single fence is a different situation,” Edge said. “It’s picking up each year since we started the program.”

Various agencies and NGOs from around the world inquired about the program and were excited about the potential results of such an incentive.  We plan to organize two electric fencing workshops this spring to help others learn how to reduce attractants on the landscape and minimize human-related grizzly mortality.

Great work, Erin and congratulations to our entire grizzly bear coexistence team!