The Big Hole Watershed is home to both black bears and the occasional grizzly bear. Grizzlies have been seen, tracked, and photographed recently in the Big Hole watershed, and we expect to see more of them in the future as they migrate through and expand into our watershed as their populations grow. This is because the Big Hole watershed is an ideal migration corridor for large carnivore such as grizzly bears due to its:

  • Proximity to the Greater Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide, and Bitterroot Ecosystems;
  • High percentage of both public lands and adjoining private lands, most of which are used for agricultural purposes (e.g. cattle ranching, hay production);
  • Abundant wildlife species and excellent wildlife habitat, including sprawling ranches, hay fields, coniferous forests, clean water, wet meadows, and thriving sagebrush ecosystems;
  • Slow rate of development and subdivision; and
  • Low human population.

The Big Hole Watershed Committee (BHWC) is partnering with People and Carnivores (P&C) to prevent conflicts with large carnivores throughout the Big Hole Valley, keeping people and their property safe and large carnivores wild. This is a good time of year to check around your property for anything that may attract a bear or other wildlife: pull down birdfeeders, store garbage inside hard-sided buildings or in a bear-resistant manner; and the same goes for other attractive items such as livestock feed and pet food. Barbeques and other smelly items can also attract bears and should be stored properly. Vulnerable livestock can be protected using electric fences.

BHWC offers free livestock carcass removal to ranchers in the Big Hole Valley (and in the Sage Creek area on behalf of the Centennial Valley Association), removing boneyards and carcasses that may lure carnivores to your property. With grizzly bear populations expanding and recent grizzly bear reports in the Valley, removing carcasses improves the safety of both people and livestock. Ranches interested in participating in the program can contact John Costa, BHWC Wildlife Program Technician, at 209-628-2225 or contact the BHWC for more information.

We also have conflict prevention tool kits available right now for ranchers to check out for free that come with various scare devices and information about ways to prevent conflicts. Tool kits can help protect vulnerable livestock during times of high risk like calving or lambing. Additional tools like electric fencing may also be available.

Bear-resistant garbage canisters are also available to any Big Hole Valley resident in need. These specialized containers can be used to keep bears and other wildlife from accessing garbage as well as livestock feed. Canisters are available on first-come, first-served basis.

For more information on any of the tools and resources mentioned, contact us at:


Big Hole Watershed Committee               People and Carnivores

Tana Nulph, Associate Director                  Kim Johnston, Field Project Manager

(406) 267-3421                                               (406) 599-9424                               


Livestock Carcass Removal

John Costa, Wildlife Program Technician

(209) 628-2225

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.