Bear Smart Big Sky

Photo Credit: MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Photo Credit: MT Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Photo Credit: Markus Kirchmayr

Photo Credit: Markus Kirchmayr

Photo Credit: USDA USFS

Photo Credit: USDA USFS

Photo Credit: Maggy He, WCS

Photo Credit: Maggy He, WCS

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Why do this work?

Big Sky is located in some of the best black bear habitat in Southwest Montana, and is part of the expanding grizzly bear population in neighboring Yellowstone National Park. This resort community is undergoing rapid growth, resulting in more interactions between people and bears than ever before. In fact, a major motivation for initiating this program was that human-bear conflicts have more than tripled in the last 20 years.

Why does it matter?

Bears that become accustomed to “free meals” from trash, pet food, or other unnatural sources will continue to come back and become increasingly bolder around people. This boldness can result in more determined bears that pose a threat to people and property, at which point these bears may need to be removed from the area. In the last 20 years, over 50 black bears have been relocated away from Big Sky and 16 were lethally removed.

What are we doing to help?

In 2013, a locally-led bear stewardship committee, Bear Smart Big Sky, was established to change the trends in conflicts and, WCS facilitates the council. The Council reduces bear access to unnatural attractants by building an informed community that understands their role in preventing conflicts. To ensure that information and tools are being used, we are also introducing a bear smart certification process for homeowners associations, subdivisions, and new construction sites.

What difference does it make?

Through the efforts of BSBS, over 75% of Big Sky residents are using bear resistant trash cans, which is more than a 50% increase since the program began. Thanks to consistent outreach programs and the bear education trailer, more than 2,000 people understand the actions they can take to reduce attractants and how to use bear spray. Together, we are engaging and informing the public that knows how to keep themselves safe and bears wild as human populations grow and bears recover and expand.


Kodiak Trash Can Fact Sheet

Bear Smart Big Sky Overview

Bear Smart Big Sky Magnet

Bear Smart At Home

Bear Smart While Recreating

Report a Bear Conflict or Sighting in Big Sky Here

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BSBS Partners

The success of this project is made possible through collaboration with our many partners.
To learn more about our partners and the important work they do, click on the links below.

On the ground:

Big Sky Community Organization
Big Sky Owners Association
Big Sky Resort
Big Sky Town Center
Big Sky Watershed Corps
Hammond Property Management
L&L Site Services
Lone Mountain Land
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
Moonlight Basin
Republic Services
USDA Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
USDA Custer-Gallatin National Forest
Spanish Peaks Mountain Club
Wildlife Conservation Society
Yellowstone Club


Big Sky Resort Tax
Brainerd Foundation
Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee I&E Grant Program
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
Moonlight Community Foundation
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Private Individuals
William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
Yellowstone Club Community Foundation

Tools for bear smart actions


Using bear spray helps keep both people and bears safe, so make sure to always carry some with you when you recreate outdoors. Bear Smart Big Sky and USFS teamed up to build this exciting bear spray training activity, look for it each summer at events throughout Southwest Montana.

Courtesy of Yellowstone Club Community Foundation

Bear-resistant container

Ever wondered what it takes for a trash can to be certified bear resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee? More than 75% of Big Sky residents are using Toter or Kodiak cans, which have been certified through tests like this.

For a full list of IGBC certified products available to reduce your chances of habituating bears to people, click here.