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, 51 black bears have been relocated away from Big Sky and 16 were lethally removed.
What are we doing to help?
In 2013, community leaders in Big Sky wanted to change this alarming trend in conflicts and initiated a Bear Smart program, asking WCS to facilitate the group. The Bear Smart Council reduces bear access to unnatural attractants by building an informed community that understands their role in preventing conflicts. A marketing campaign and a “report a bear sighting or conflict” webpage was launched to help us get ahead of conflicts before they start. 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 the Bear Smart program, over 75% of Big Sky residents are using bear resistant trash cans, which is more than a 50% increase since the program began in 2013. Thanks to consistent outreach programs and the bear education trailer, more than 2,000 visitors and residents in Big Sky understand the actions they can take to reduce attractants and how to use bear spray when recreating. Together, we are building an engaged and informed public that knows how to keep themselves and bears safe as our communities grow and bear populations recover and expand.
What's a bear resistant canister?
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.
How can you help?
For a full list of IGBC certified products available to reduce your chances of habituating bears to people, click here.
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.
Interested in learning more about our work to reduce conflicts with bears?
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.
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
USDA Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest
USDA Custer-Gallatin National Forest
Spanish Peaks Mountain Club
Wildlife Conservation Society
Big Sky Resort Tax
Interagency Grizzly Gear Committee I&E Grant Program
M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
William & Flora Hewlett Foundation
Yellowstone Club Community Foundation