Learning To Live In Harmony With Bears

Story: The students of Wildlife in the West
Photos: Andrea DiNino

On Saturday, June 9th Swan Valley Bear Resources hosted the Bear Fair at the Swan River Community Hall in Ferndale/Echo Lake, an annual event that works to share information with the public on how to coexist with bears. Almost three weeks into our time as Wildlife in the West students, the Bear Fair was an awesome opportunity for us to interact with community members and share what we have learned in our time here in Condon.

While at the fair, we had the chance to interview both vendors and community members on their views about bears, how they became involved with the Bear Fair, and stories of their interactions with the awesome animals. Some of the vendors we spoke to included: Defenders of Wildlife, who attended to share information for their program to fund bear fencing; the Montana Land Reliance, a land trust who shared the value of conservation easements and more; Vital Ground, who work to promote bear habitat connectivity; and BeBearAware.org with Chuck Bartlebaugh, who promotes bear awareness and safety. While talking to the vendors and the public, we were excited to notice the overall vibe that was given off and the opportunity to engage with people with all levels of knowledge about wildlife. We especially had fun teaching the children some of what we knew about the wildlife in the valley. In addition to the outdoor booths, there were presentations about current bear research and conflict mitigation given by Tim Manley, a Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks grizzly bear management specialist, and Cecily Costello, a wildlife biologist, of Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. The community appeared to love the presentations and was very engaged with the speakers, asking plenty of questions and showing an overall passion for wildlife and learning to live in harmony with bears.

The Bear Fair was a great experience, not only for us, but also for all of the community members who were able to attend, and we hope that this form of community education can continue to thrive in the Swan Valley and beyond!