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.
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.
Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date on the status of other developments important to wildlife conservation and our coexistence work. Don’t forget to sign up for our emails where you will get all the latest news and action alerts to support wildlife.