in the Methow
Methow Valley Bear Aware Community Assessment
This fall we began working on a Bear Aware Community Assessment for the Methow, in partnership with the Defenders of Wildlife. Through this assessment, we aim to compile information on the current and historical state of human-bear interactions in our valley .
Bears are extremely curious, have a great sense of smell, and eat a wide variety of foods. This can lead them into our backyards looking for food, and as a result, understanding Back Yard Attractants available to bears is a key piece of information for our assessment.
The Back Yard Attractants Survey closed on October 20th. Thanks to everyone who submitted a response!
The Methow Bear Aware Community Assessment is slated for release in Spring 2024. Stay tuned!
Climate change, increased human development, and changes in natural food availability all contribute to black bear (skəḿxíst; Ursus americanus) use of human-inhabited areas and can elicit human-black bear conflict. In Washington’s Methow Valley, climate-change fueled wildfires have burned approximately 40% of the region over the past several decades, with more than half of that area burned in the past 10 years. The Methow Valley has also experienced a 33% increase in residential development over the last 15 years and will continue to see increased residential growth, with only 52% of all private parcels currently developed. In addition, wild berries from fruiting shrubs are an important natural food for black bears, but as summers in the Pacific Northwest get hotter and drier, the phenology and distribution of berry shrubs are changing. These combined influences have led to marked increases in human-black bear conflict in the Methow Valley.
While human-black bear conflict is common across the mountain west, the Methow Valley is in a position to examine and mitigate these factors before conflict becomes a widespread problem. In partnership with Methow Bear Aware, a collaboration between the Methow Conservancy (MC), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Defenders of Wildlife, and Home Range Widllife Research, we are working to increase black bear awareness in the Methow Valley through a combination of outreach and community-based science initiatives. These include:
Implementing a community science black bear project to monitor bear activity and variables that influence human-bear conflict
Monitoring a pilot effort to improve bear-resistant waste management infrastructure in the Methow
Hosting workshops and sharing educational materials to reduce accessibility of at-home attractants
Conducting a valley-wide survey on the bear aware status of the Methow
Where this work is happening
We are sampling 30 randomly selected cells, roughly the size of an average female black bear's home range, throughout the Methow Valley Watershed using a combination of camera traps, field surveys, and remotely sensed data.
How community scientists are helping
From monitoring natural food availability along 'beary' walk transects, to sorting camera trap images and identifying seeds found in bear scats, we couldn't do this work with out our community science volunteers!
What we are doing to foster coexistence
Alongside Methow Bear Aware, we are sharing annual project information about the areas bears are using, factors shaping their activity, and strategies that can help mitigate conflict in our community.
2023 Natural Food Survey Findings
In 2023, community science volunteers helped us to survey natural foods and maintain cameras along 30 transects. We updated our data collection methods based on our 2022 pilot season findings, and were able to gather additional information on shrub phenology. We found serviceberries to be the most common shrub across transects, and the first shrub to reach peak production. All 5 shrub species surveyed yielded higher crop success than last year. Camera trap findings coming soon!
2022 Pilot Findings
Help Make the Methow Bear Aware
Human-bear coexistence is a community effort. Here are the ways that you can help to encourage human-black bear coexistence: