Human-Bear Coexistence

in the Methow

Methow Valley Community Bear Assessment 

The Methow Valley Community Bear Assessment aims to identify areas of current and potential human-bear conflict within the Methow Valley, WA, and outline next steps for human-bear coexistence. 

This document includes relevant background on bear biology and habitat use and presents data on historic human-bear conflict in the Methow Valley, particularly in the upper half of the developed portion of the watershed (Twisp, Winthrop, Mazama, and surrounding areas). It also identifies various factors affecting conflict including development, anthropogenic food sources, and solid waste management.

We hope this assessment serves as a guide for future work, presenting current needs, cost estimates, continued challenges, and suggesting where funds may be most effectively spent. 

Project Overview

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: 

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:

Thank you to our Human-Bear Coexistence project partners!