Our six most recent posts - click a title to expand/collapse:

Bears are Excellent Mothers

May 22nd, 2015

Black bear with Cubs by Jeremy Patrick

Black bear with Cubs by Jeremy Patrick

by Monica Perez-Watkins

Bears are excellent mothers.
After mating in the spring, female bears undergo delayed implantation, that is, the hollow ball of cells that will become the embryo doesn’t implant in her uterine wall until late fall, but this will only happen if she has enough weight to sustain the pregnancy. Also, unlike male bears, females actually stop growing once they reach maturity and any extra energy she accumulates will go to enhancing her fertility: larger litters, healthier cubes, enhanced milk production, shorter reproductive cycles … making a more viable bear population. Once the bears are born, she teaches them everything they need to know about being a bear in a specific area, bear culture. That’s why it is so imperative that we humans do not teach bears bad habits, e.g. leaving bird feeders out after winter, apples lingering on the tree in the fall, or raising chickens without an electric fence. There have been too many recent reports of bears getting into bird feeders around Missoula – anything cubs do with mom, they are learning from her and [if they survive and aren’t removed from the population] will carry on into their adulthood and teach their own young. Lets not let that happen.

Wildlife Extravaganza

May 13th, 2015

GBF's Chris Olsen teaches families about bears

GBF’s Chris Olsen teaches families about bears

By Chris Olsen

The Great Bear Foundation participated in the 3rd annual Wildlife Extravaganza on May 9th at the Montana Natural History Center. The event was organized by the UM Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Over 400 Missoulians attended the free, family-friendly event to learn more about conservation, science, and wildlife.

The Great Bear Foundation was one of over a dozen nonprofits that provided educational programs at the event. GBF provided Bear Basics education as well as an interactive table display that provided students with hands-on activities.

Students explored the differences in tracks between grizzly bears, black bears, wolves, and mountain lions. They also analyzed the different claws of grizzly bears, black bears, polar bears, and mountain lions to determine how each animal used their claws. Students also got the opportunity to feel the fur of a black bear and to analyze bear scat.

Education is an important part of our mission at the Great Bear Foundation. Living with bears and other large predators is a reality in Montana, and we feel strongly that learning about these animals is essential knowledge for children to have. There are many harmful myths about these animals, and we believe in providing students with accurate, scientific information to dispel these myths.

Great Bear provides free Bear Basics programs to K-12 schools and other groups in western Montana and Southeast Alaska. For more information, or to schedule a program, please contact the Great Bear Foundation.

Give Local Missoula May 5

May 4th, 2015

Give Local Missoula

Give Local Missoula

Your donation can go further if you donate through Give Local Missoula on May 5, 2015.

Click here to stretch your donation on May 5th.
Give LOCAL Missoula is a powerful 24-hour, online giving event. Presented by the Missoula Community Foundation, Give LOCAL Missoula is part of a national event with local impact. We are joining communities across the country on May 5th in a one-day online giving challenge to raise funds for local causes.

In 2014 (Give Local Missoula‘s first year), 1901 community members donated $135,250 to 90 local nonprofits! Our 2015 goal is to raise $200,000 for Missoula nonprofits during this one day, and we would like to see 5% of our community participating.

As part of Give Local America, Missoula can generate significant funds for causes right in our own backyard. For one day, every dollar given to local nonprofits will be stretched by funds from a local pool of sponsorships- making every gift go further.

On May 5th at 12:00am, the Give Local Missoula website will begin accepting donations to more than 130 local nonprofits and causes – for one day only.

Everyone can be a superhero. We’re asking every person in the community to get behind this effort. Large and small gifts will combine for a big impact. Give to your favorite nonprofits, and then consider kicking in an extra $10 or more to the Give Local Missoula Stretch Pool.

Bobbing for Apples, Learning for Bears

May 1st, 2015

Bobbing for Apples

Bobbing for Apples at Wildfest

By Chris Olsen
The Great Bear Foundation helped kick off the International Wildlife Film Festival (and Earth Week!) in Missoula with WildFest on April 19th, educating the public about bear species and bear safety.

As part of our educational table, we set up a variety of specimens including skulls from black bears, grizzly bears, and mountain lions, a black bear skin, and a variety of tracks from mammals in Montana. Many of the kids, and their parents, left with a deeper understanding of bears and other wildlife. A mix of hands-on and passive education, the table helped us provide kids with an interactive display designed to help them learn more about Montana wildlife and the bears that we share habitat with.

Additionally, we set up a bobbing for apples station for kids (or their parents) to bob for apples. The station helped raise awareness about our Bears and Apples program, which happens every fall. As part of the program, the Great Bear Foundation helps glean fruit trees around Missoula in an effort to reduce bear attractants in the area and mitigate human-bear conflicts in the region. The bobbing for apples station was a real crowd-gatherer at the event, and everyone walked away with a free apple to enjoy.

The Great Bear Foundation will be participating in a few more community events this Spring, so keep an eye out for us!

Join us for a Summer Field Trip to the Arctic

March 20th, 2015

Beluga Tale by Frank Tyro

Beluga in the Churchill River. Photo by Frank Tyro

Belugas, Berries and Bears: Arctic Summer Ecology Field Course, Churchill, Manitoba
July 25-August 4, 2015 from Missoula, MT
July 26-August 3, 2015 from Winnipeg

Join the Great Bear Foundation on our summer journey to discover the natural and cultural history of Churchill on Hudson Bay. The tundra comes alive in the summertime, with wildflowers, abundant berries, migratory birds, whales, and wildlife. In August, the mosquitoes die down, the tundra turns amazing colors, and the nights start to get dark enough to see the northern lights on clear nights. Polar bears have come in off the ice and disperse across the landscape, and the beluga whales have their calves in the Churchill River. It’s a magical time to go north.

We will travel overland by bus and train to reach Churchill, and spend our days exploring tundra, beach, and boreal forest, watching wildlife, picking berries, beach-combing, and learning about the rich natural and cultural history of Churchill and Hudson Bay.

This field course is taught by Dr. Frank Tyro of Salish Kootenai College, who has been traveling to Hudson Bay with the Great Bear Foundation for 30 years. Visit our field courses page for more information on this and other Great Bear Foundation field courses.

The Great Bear Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and all proceeds from our field courses directly support bear conservation.

Click here for more information about the course, or contact us for more information.

Apples, and Pears, and Bears – Oh My

October 8th, 2014

Volunteers gleaning apples

A group of volunteers glean apples, pears, apricots, and plums from an orchard.

By Chris Olsen, Bears & Apples Coordinator

It is almost mid-October in the Missoula Valley, and that means the mornings are getting colder, the days are getting shorter, and Bears and Apples season is coming to a close.

The Bears and Apples program at the Great Bear Foundation began in 2001 with the goal of reducing human-bear conflict in the region. As fruit trees ripen in late summer and early fall, bears begin to head down from the mountains in search of easy and accessible food sources. This brings them into the residential areas to reap the benefit of backyard fruit trees. Once bears become accustomed to the high-calorie, low-effort food source they find in backyard fruit trees, it can be hard to break them of that habit. Wildlife managers will remove bears from these residential areas for the safety of the public. However, relocating bears is expensive and, often, the bear will return to the area immediately. This can result in the death of the bear.

Apples gleaned by volunteers

Volunteers get to keep as much fruit as they want from the gleaning trips. The remainder is donated to the Missoula Food Bank and other community groups.

In the Missoula Valley, fruit trees are the number one food attractant for bears. The Bears and Apples program is designed to remove the attractant before bears become accustomed to it. Removing the food source will remove the incentive for the bears to move into residential areas in search of food.

The Bears and Apples program had a highly successful 2014 season. With the help of over 100 interested volunteers, we were able to glean the fruit from over 100 fruit trees (apples, pears, plums, apricots) in the Missoula area. We primarily focused on the Rattlesnake area, but even made some trips out to Lolo and Arlee. From these trees we collected hundreds of pounds of fruit that went to volunteers, nonprofit partners, and the Missoula Food Bank.

Volunteers pressing cider

GBF Volunteer Coordinator, Chris Olsen, shows a group of volunteers how to use the cider press.

Bears and Apples season culminated in a large service day for the University of Montana Wildlife Society. Over 12 volunteers helped the Great Bear Foundation glean a large orchard out in Arlee that had seen recent black bear activity.

The Bears and Apples program would not be possible without the help of our amazing volunteers. We truly appreciate all of their hard work and dedication to helping the bears and the Great Bear Foundation. Bears and Apples is generously funded by Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative, Patagonia Environmental Grants, and support from members. Click here to become a member and support on-the-ground bear conservation projects like this one.

More pictures from our work this fall can be found below.

Volunteer coordinator picking apples

Bears and Apples Coordinator Chris Olsen works on gleaning a pear tree out in Arlee, Montana.

Volunteer pressing cider

Volunteers utilize Great Bear Foundation’s cider press to make their very own cider. Volunteers have found some of the best cider is made from a mixture of pears and apples.

Volunteer climbing apple tree

Climbing trees is often one of the highlights for volunteers with Bears and Apples.

Volunteer climbing apple tree

See our Archives for all past news.

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