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Register for our Arctic Ecology Field Courses

June 5th, 2017

Polar Bear in Fireweed

Polar Bear on our summer Berries, Belugas and Bears field course

Travel with us to Churchill, Manitoba this summer for our Berries, Belugas and Bears arctic ecology field course, August 13-21!

Members save 10% through June 15, 2017!

The Great Bear Foundation offers unique, small-group, low-impact wildlife-viewing experiences in Churchill, Manitoba on Canada’s Hudson Bay. When you travel with us, you’ll spend your days in the field, watching wildlife like polar bears, arctic and red fox, arctic terns, gyrfalcon and other birdlife, arctic and snowshoe hare, and you’ll explore the tundra, taiga, and beaches surrounding Hudson bay.

Our field courses emphasize learning and conservation, and you’ll learn how to interpret animal behavior to encourage high quality wildlife-viewing and photography experiences with as little impact on the animals and their habitat as possible.

Our Berries, Belugas and Bears summer trip to the Arctic is a family-friendly, small group experience. The trip includes roundtrip economy class train travel to Churchill (from Winnipeg, Canora, or elsewhere on the Winnipeg-Churchill line), accommodations and meals in Churchill, a boat-based whale watching tour, and course tuition. Participants are eligible for Continuing Education Units (CEUs) from Salish Kootenai College.

Highlights include daily wildlife-viewing, field trips to cultural sites and unique geological features like a palsa field, evening programs on wildlife, photography, local cultures, climate change and conservation, and possibly northern lights!

All proceeds directly benefit bear conservation.

Click here to learn more and register!

Join a 24 Hour Giving Event May 4th and 5th

May 2nd, 2017

Mikfik Creek Brown Bear

Give Local to support bear conservation

For 24 hours this week, from 6PM Mountain Time on May 4th to 6PM Mountain Time on May 5th, you can support bear conservation on Give Local Day! For 24 hours only, no matter where you live, your donation can go further by giving through the Give Local platform!

As a grassroots, community-based organization, we depend on your support to make our programs possible. This 24 hour giving event harnesses the generosity of our donors and our community into one powerful event. Donations made during this period are eligible for stretch funds from the Give Local stretch pool, for 24 hours only. Just click the DONATE NOW button between 6PM May 4th and 6PM May 5th to make your contribution!

Visit our Projects page to see where your contribution goes. For other ways to support our bear conservation and education work, shop our merchandise. Or, even better, register for a field course in polar bear country to support bear conservation with a once-in-a-lifetime adventure among the polar bears!

Thank you for supporting bear conservation!

Jonkel Film Premieres April 20th in Missoula

March 23rd, 2017

Walking Bear Comes Home: The life and work of Chuck Jonkel

Walking Bear Comes Home: The life and work of Chuck Jonkel premieres April 20th at the Roxy Theater in Missoula.

Walking Bear Comes Home: The life and work of Chuck Jonkel
A production of the Great Bear Foundation and Caribou Crossing Media

Join us for the world premiere screening of Walking Bear Comes Home: The life and work of Chuck Jonkel at the 40th International Wildlife Film Festival, Thursday, April 20th, 2017 at 5:00 PM at the Roxy Theater in Missoula.

Come early to honor Chuck at 4:00 with a reception, poetry reading by Vic Charlo, and unveiling of a permanent memorial inside the theater. After the film, we’ll celebrate the release of Great Bear Cider, a hard cider made with fruit gleaned from our Bears & Apples Program, at Western Cider, 501 N California St. from 7:00-9:00 PM. Western Cider generously donates 10% of the proceeds to the Great Bear Foundation.

After conducting the first capture-and-handling studies on black bears in Montana, Chuck Jonkel explored the Canadian Arctic pioneering the field of polar bear biology. Walking Bear Comes Home examines Jonkel’s contributions to wildlife biology, conservation, and community through interviews and archival footage.

Walking Bear Comes Home: The life and work of Chuck Jonkel was sponsored by Humanities Montana, Cinnabar Foundation, Salish Kootenai College Media, KSKC Public-TV, Caribou Crossing, and private donations.

DVDs will be available at the screening, or pre-order here.

PRE-ORDER – DVD releases April 20, 2017
Price: $20.00 plus shipping
Shipping will be calculated at checkout. For international orders, please contact us.

Polar Bear Field Courses Offer Experiential Learning

August 10th, 2016

Polar Bear in Fireweed

A plump summer polar bear in the fireweed

The Great Bear Foundation offers high-quality, low-impact experiential learning opportunities in polar bear habitat. Our summer field course, Berries, Belugas and Bears just wrapped up in Churchill, Manitoba. Our group spanned multiple generations and enjoyed exploring the tundra, picking berries, learning about wildflowers, beachcombing, and watching belugas with their calves in the Churchill River. A plump polar bear tiptoed through the fireweed, and the night owls in the group were rewarded with a spectacular northern lights show, thanks to clear weather and solar activity.

Limited space is available for our fall polar bear trips in October and November. These trips coincide with peak polar bear season in Churchill, as the bears migrate to Cape Churchill, waiting for the first sea ice to form, to break their summer fast. When the ice forms, the bears can return to the ice to hunt their staple food, the ringed seal. Our October course offers an overview of arctic ecology with a focus on polar bears, while our November course sheds light on how humans and polar bears share habitat.

All field courses primarily focus on observing polar bears in their natural habitat, while minimizing our impacts on the bears and their habitat. Evening lectures, slideshows, and guest speakers complement our field observations.

Field courses are open to adults and children of all backgrounds, and proceeds directly fund our bear conservation initiatives. Click here to sign up today!

Charles Jonkel Memorial Celebration July 16

June 10th, 2016

Memorial celebration for Charles Jonkel Saturday, July 16, 2016 from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM at Missoula’s Bonner Park. Please join us in celebrating the life and work of the Great Bear Foundation’s cofounder and long-serving President.
Final Memorial Flyer

Click here to download the PDF flyer.

In Memory of Dr. Charles Jonkel

April 13th, 2016

Chuck on Hudson Bay

You remember teacher singing who Walking Bear
was as you scratch your joy deep in smooth, hard stone
and Walking Bear comes finally home.

-Vic Charlo, “First Polar Bear” for Chuck Jonkel

I am heartbroken to pass on the news that the Great Bear Foundation’s co-founder and President Emeritus, Dr. Charles Jonkel passed away in Missoula last night, April 12, 2016.

It is an emotional time for us at the Great Bear Foundation as we say goodbye to Chuck, but at the same time, I am struck by the impact that Chuck had on so many lives–human, bear, and all living things he encountered and fought for. He leaves behind a legacy of bear biology, conservation, community involvement, social justice, and perhaps most of all, generosity and love.

When I first met Chuck at the University of Montana in the late 90s, I had no idea he would change the course of my life. It is a privilege to carry on his work and legacy through the Great Bear Foundation. I’ve often tried to pin down the most important impact Chuck has made on me, and it’s very difficult. He taught me so much about bears, wildlife, and conservation, but the most important thing he taught me was how to live a good and righteous life, and that is something I will carry with me always.

Chuck inspired, taught, and befriended so many people everywhere he went. He was not afraid to speak his heart and mind, and at times he could be an ornery old bear, but he made his imprint on all of us in the world of bear conservation. We will miss him terribly, but with a heart that generous and an impact that great, we’ll enjoy his legacy on into the future.

Chuck shared that he hoped to be reincarnated as a polar bear. He had a den picked out on North Twin Island, lined with tundra flowers. When Hudson Bay breaks up this summer, there will surely be another polar bear coming ashore to find that den.

Dr. Frank Tyro and I have been working for many years now on a documentary film on Chuck’s life and legacy. This preview was cut before Chuck’s death (an updated cut will air at the upcoming International Wildlife Film Festival awards ceremony April 22nd), but it pays tribute to his life and legacy. I hope that it will bring some solace to those who are feeling his loss. Click here to watch the preview.

Shannon Donahue
Executive Director

Click here to make a contribution to fund the archiving of Jonkel’s body of work..

Click here to make a contribution to the Jonkel documentary project..

Click here for the Montana Public Radio story.

See our Archives for all past news.

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