Human-Bear Coexistence

in the Methow

Methow Valley Bear Aware Community Assessment 

This fall we are working on a Bear Aware Community Assessment for the Methow, in partnership with the Defenders of Wildlife. Through this assessment, we are hoping to understand 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 food. This can lead them to our back yards looking for food, and to understand human/ bear interactions we need to understand what Back Yard Attractants are available for bears to get into. 

Please help us get the full picture of these dynamics and fill out our Back Yard Attractants Survey! 

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. 

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!