Methow Valley Community Science Initiatives
Black Bears in the Methow
Black bears (Ursus americanus) are common throughout the Methow Valley and encounters are generally infrequent, but bear sightings and reports of "problem bears" have increased in the last several years. Climate change, increased human development, and natural food availability can all contribute to black bear use of human-inhabited areas and elicit human-black bear conflict. For example, wild berries from fruiting shrubs are an important natural food for black bears as they pack on calories in preparation for their winter torpor. In years where wild berry crops fail, shortages of these vital calories and can increase a bear's willingness to navigate risks associated with human development to access anthropogenic foods, such as trash, orchard fruits, and bird feeder seeds.
The Methow Valley is in a position to examine and mitigate these factors before human-black bear conflict becomes a widespread problem. In collaboration with the Methow Conservancy, we will be recruiting community scientists to conduct black bear natural food surveys ("Beary" Walks!). Monitoring variation in natural food availability will contribute to a long-term study of black bear conflict mitigation in the Methow and help inform research related to black bear ecology.
If you are interested in volunteering for the natural foods survey project, you can sign up here!