Linking Grizzly Populations in Montana
While National Wildlife Federation's Wildlife Conflict Resolution Program has expanded significantly over the past several years to new geographies and protecting new species, large carnivores, especially grizzly bears remain a primary focus of our work.
In the Lower 48, grizzlies occupy just a fraction of their historic range and two distinct populations represent the vast majority of bears in the Northern Rockies--the Yellowstone Populations and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Population. For nearly two decades, NWF has worked in the Yellowstone Ecosystem to expand grizzly populations by reducing conflict between livestock and wildlife on public land grazing allotments. Bears that begin attacking livestock are often killed or at best relocated by wildlife agencies. This has limited the species' ability to expand into new habitat. Over the last 15 years, NWF has invested over $5 million dollars and has elimininated livestock/ widlife conflicts on over a million acres in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.
The issues with the Northern Continental Divide population are similar, however, private land conflicts are especially prevalent as grizzlies explore the prairies east of Montana's Rocky Mountain Front. Over the past year, NWF has begun exploring opportunities to minimize bear attractants in areas near human populations. In particular, an effort has been made to establish livestock carcass composting facilities. While a somewhat crude description , they are secure areas designed for ranchers to dump deceased livestock as a way to avoid habituating grizzlies.
The main goal of reducing conflict for bears is to provide conflict-free habitat so their populations are secure. Essential to that is reducing conflicts in the places that matter most--those areas that will provide the greatest opportunity for connectivity between the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem populations--two populations that have been divided for nearly a century. With less than 2000 bears between the two ecosystems, genetic interchange will provide long-term stability, even as climate driven impacts and reduced food sources stress the populations. Through targetted prvate land conservation easements and NWF's work reducing conflict on public lands, biologists are hopeful the populations will join within the next decade. These are exciting times and we are honored to be a part of one of the largest conservation success stories in North America!
Grizzly Populations Expanding in the West
NWF Works to Reduce Livestock/ Wildlife Conflicts
Grizzlies Photographed East Near Great Falls, MT