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Bear Basics with Bernadette: The conflicts have changed, but bears can coexist here

Bay Stephens

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By Kris Inman Wildlife Conservation Society

Looking back at holiday seasons past, my Christmas list often included wool pants to keep me warm and dry as I ventured into the woods to fulfill my job as a wildlife biologist. Deerskin gloves rounded off my list and they would help me to hold onto the scruff of the neck of black bear cubs who were snug in their mother’s den; the quiet signal of the radio-telemetry collar fitted around her neck guided us to their winter home. By climbing into the dens, and fitting them with new radio collars, we were able to learn if the cubs of the previous year survived to be yearlings.

This information helped us to track the population health, understand threats, and guide decisions to safeguard bear populations. At that time, the most significant cause of mortality we were concerned about was sustainable hunting. Two decades later, at this past holiday season, I found myself looking at new water bottles, to keep me hydrated as I work at a desk to bring science to on-the-ground-action.

The water bottle will be sporting a Bernadette Bear sticker—the newest member of the Bear Smart Big Sky team is meant to raise the profile of one of the leading threats to bears today: conflicts with people. There is a relatively easy way to reduce these conflicts: using bear-resistant trash cans. As I think to Christmas of the future, I envision a Big Sky community that is engaged in bear smart actions, like using bear-resistant trashcans community wide, so that bears are living in harmony alongside us.

As a community that thrives in being outside, it’s not hard to believe we can be inspired to change our behaviors and protect our wild neighbors.

Don’t forget to post photos of bear sightings and check in with Bernadette Bear on Instagram @bearsmartbigsky and #bernadettebear. Help support Bernadette in her campaign to create a more bear-safe and bear-aware community in Big Sky.

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