Living With Grizzlies

Defenders is helping communities become bear aware by promoting coexistence as grizzly bear populations disperse in the Northern Rockies.

Spring is in full swing in the Northern Rocky Mountains and grizzly bears have once again emerged from theirs dens to enjoy the lush vegetation of the region. Their reemergence is a time-honored ritual in nature, but for many people that share the land with bears, it can also be a time of emerging conflicts.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to restoring and protecting grizzlies while also helping people peacefully and safely coexist with one of nature’s top predators and often misunderstood animals. Defenders has a long and successful history of field conservation work through our on-the-ground coexistence efforts, preventing bear-human conflicts, and promoting social tolerance for bears on the landscape.

New Neighbors

Grizzly bears once roamed across much of North America, but by the early 1900’s humans had eradicated grizzlies from most of the Lower 48 states. Passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973 and subsequent federal protection of grizzlies has allowed for their slow recovery in parts of the Northern Rockies.

As grizzly populations slowly expand, people are encountering them in areas for the first time in decades. Many of these areas are vital connectivity corridors that are critical to the long-term success of grizzly recovery and connectivity in the Lower 48 states. Reaching out to local communities in these areas to prevent conflicts with grizzlies is a key component to a future where bears continue to expand into new territories and ultimately reconnect what are now isolated populations. Such efforts can improve tolerance for the species and minimize bear mortalities.

This was the main impetus for Defenders’ Electric Fence Incentive Program, through which we provide financial and technical assistance to help landowners protect and secure attractants such as chickens and other small livestock, beehives, gardens, and more from foraging bears. Defenders’ field staff works directly with Northern Rockies communities and landowners to minimize potential conflicts, increase awareness, and implement conflict reduction measures across all five grizzly bear ecosystems in the U.S. Northern Rockies: Greater Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, Cabinet-Yaak, Selkirk and Bitterroot.

The use of electric fencing to address bear conflict issues is a time-tested, non-lethal method that has become so popular that in 2016, Defenders created our own how-to video for anyone who wants to build their own. This step-by-step instructional video details how to build a simple electric fence to secure well-known bear attractants and has had over 1,700 hits since it launched last year. Our electric fence program is just one example of our multi-faceted grizzly bear program.

A Long Road to Recovery

Grizzly bear populations in the Yellowstone and Northern Continental Divide ecosystems continue to expand in numbers and range. This is evidence that the ESA is working successfully. However, there is still a great deal of work to be done, especially in areas with small grizzly bear populations like the Selkirk and Cabinet-Yaak areas, and areas with very few or no bears remaining like the North Cascades and Bitterroot.

Along with our coexistence work, Defenders continues to advocate for sound and lasting management strategies that ensure long-term recovery and success by holding the state wildlife management agencies accountable if ESA protections are removed. We remain committed to helping create a healthy and prosperous future for grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies and North Cascades and ensuring that communities can live in harmony alongside them.

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21 Responses to “Living With Grizzlies”

  1. norma graciela varrone cancio


  2. jill

    The grizzlies are beautiful, please don’t harm them….they are beautiful animals and deserve more wild habitat for food. If dog is mans best friend then so should the grizzly they are so close in appearance…most likely genetics as well. There is nothing more awesome than a mother with her pups. Pure magic on God’s green earth, let them roam and live wild and free and out of harms way. Animals are what makes this world a better place…all the wild animals are a gift and we need to steward and protect them in every way possible.

  3. Perry Gx

    Gotta Keep The Endangered Species Act Intact! “NO Gutting The ESA” + Learn To Coexist w/ Grizzly Bears!!!

  4. Jennie Gosche

    Bob Staple’s photo of the mother grizzlie with two small cubs facing cars and people with cameras breaks my heart. Mother bears fiercely protect their young but uneducated gawkers don’t realize they are putting the bears at risk. Thank goodness for the work Defender’s is doing to try and prevent bear/people interactions.

  5. Lucienne

    Grizzlies are the “true” owners of the Rockies so it is up to us , humans , to respect them and learn to live with them .

  6. mulot

    grizzly bears have the right to live, we must preserve wildlife!!

  7. linda S justice

    We must learn to step back, take turns, and make room for the other, whether it’s animal or man of different color and mindset.

  8. Heather Thomson-Stewart

    Humans and wildlife must coexist before it is too late.
    It is the greedy landowners and trophy hunters who want to get rid of them and a world without wildlife is too dreadful to contemplate.
    Now this stupid wall that Trump wants to build will be another nail in their coffin

  9. Susan Fanning

    Electric fencing sounds like a wonderful idea to deter the bears!!!

  10. Christine up vercellino

    Thanks defenders staff I appreciate your love, hard efforts, and work to coexist with the magnificent animals who we share this planet with
    “A Nation is judged by how it treats its animals” Mahatma Ghandi

  11. Ethel Nyman

    I am glad to hear about the human aspect as well as that of the wild and endangered species. I care about wild animals, but I also care about humans.
    Too often, nothing is said about the effects a proposed action will have on humans.

  12. Sally O. Smyth

    Do you ever partner with the Vital Ground Foundation–the land trust founded to provide safe travel corridors for grizzly bears in the U.S. West so that they can avoid conflicts with humans and reach the habitats that can support them?

  13. Anne Inmon

    I fully support any and all measures to protect our grizzlies

  14. Sevda Cenkci

    Grizzly bears should be respected in their habitat without being disturbed.

  15. Marie-Anne Phillips

    In my opinion, educating people to co-exist with bears and other animals in their natural environment and respecting these precious animals and their habitat in each region is so vital for each day, the near future and the future legacy is so very precious.
    I find bears so interesting, fascinating and am in awe of them and I feel at times I have a some what special connection to them. My heart breaks and feels bruised everytime I read about the endangered species act to protect them and other animals being treathened by Trump to destroy thall these majestic animals. I hope that we can make them equally important for their sake.

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