Human-Bear Coexistence

in the Methow

May is Bear Month in the Methow and we need your help!

Spring is finally upon us and the first reports of bear activity in the Methow are rolling in! The second season of our human-bear coexistence project is underway and we need your support encouraging our community to become as bear aware as possible. 

Help us raise $10,000 to make this work happen! Your donation will make it possible to:

Project Overview

Climate change, increased human development, and changes in natural food availability all contribute to black bear (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 science volunteers 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. 

2022 Pilot Findings

We piloted our black bear natural foods community science project during the summer of 2022 with the help of 20 volunteers. Volunteers assisted in the monitoring variation in natural food availability across the Methow watershed and helped us refine methods for the 2023 season. This pilot data helped us understand the distribution and abundance of fruiting shrubs in the Methow Valley, along with relative crop success for each of our five berry crops of interest: serviceberry, chokecherry, elderberry, current, and dogwood. 

In 2022, community science volunteers documented serviceberries as most abundant fruiting shrub in the Methow, followed by chokecherry, elderberry, currant, and dogwood. The majority of all crops surveyed yielded low to moderate crop success in a year of high bear conflict. 

Relative Abundance

Crop Success






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:

Bear Month Events

Black Bear Natural Foods Volunteer Training

Tuesday, May 22nd or Friday, May 26th, from 5:30-7:30pm