The Big Hole Watershed is home to both black bears (Ursus americanus) and the occasional grizzly bear (Ursus arctos horibilis).

In 2016, a game camera in the upper Big Hole photographed a grizzly bear crossing a stream, and the photograph (above right) was confirmed to be that of a grizzly by a Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear biologist. The 2016 photograph marked the first confirmed instance of a grizzly bear in the watershed in several years, though residents report grizzly bear tracks and sightings each year. BHWC responded by ramping up educational efforts in regards to grizzly bears and bear safety awareness, providing bear-resistance garbage cans to residents free-of-charge, and offering two bear safety trainings. More effort and investments may be necessary to prepare residents for grizzly bears, which are likely to expand into the Big Hole watershed based on its location and wealth of wildlife habitats.

BHWC is preparing Big Hole residents for the expansion of grizzly bears into our watershed by providing educational opportunities, conflict reduction programs, and access to necessary tools like bear-resistant garbage cans and bear spray.

About BHWC’s Wildlife Subcommittee: In response to public concern regarding wildlife issues in the Big Hole watershed, BHWC formed a wildlife subcommittee in November 2008 to discuss wildlife management issues. The subcommittee is led by Jim Hagenbarth and Dean Peterson, Big Hole Valley ranchers. The wildlife subcommittee invites solutions from all sides of wildlife issues. The primary objective of the wildlife subcommittee is to provide wildlife conflict reduction to help both ranchers and wildlife thrive in a predator-rich environment. BHWC’s wildlife conflict reduction initiative is a collaborative effort with many partners and contributors, including People and Carnivores, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, WCS Community Partnerships Program, Defenders of Wildlife, USFWS-Montana Partners for Fish and Wildlife, USFWS-Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, the Montana Livestock Loss Board, the Cinnabar Foundation, the Vital Ground Foundation, and many local ranchers who have contributed wood chips, use of heavy equipment, knowledge, donations, and more.