Big Hole Watershed Committee

Range riding and carcass removal in the Big Hole Valley, where grizzlies are reclaiming historic range.

Range Rider
Big Hole Watershed Committee
Big Hole Valley
Gray Wolf
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Big Hole Watershed Committee PROJECT BRIEF

Perched between the Greater Yellowstone, Northern Continental Divide and Bitterroot ecosystems, southwest Montana’s Big Hole Valley could one day provide connective habitat where bears born in three different states intersect.

With the Big Hole’s first confirmed grizzly sighting in many years occurring in 2016, the resettlement has begun. Now we must help the area’s human residents prevent grizzly problems before they happen.

Leading the charge is the Big Hole Watershed Committee (BHWC), a local stakeholder’s group whose governing board represents interests ranging from conservation to ranching to tourism. Our first partnership with BHWC supported a new Upper Big Hole Ranger Rider position. Drawing from the success of the Range Rider Program farther north in the Blackfoot Valley—a program Vital Ground has supported with grants in recent years—this project put a seasoned manager on the land and in the community, monitoring wolf and grizzly populations while collaborating with ranchers to quickly remove conflict-inducing livestock carcasses and modify grazing plans to account for wildlife movements.

We’ve also helped BHWC equip area ranchers with bear safety resource guides and toolkits, featuring items like bear spray and nonlethal scare devices to keep bears in the woods and away from livestock. New for 2021, we’re assisting in an expanded carcass removal program to quickly eliminate a major bear attractant from area ranches.

Big Hole Watershed Committee at a Glance

  • Stakeholder group representing ranching, conservation, tourism and more in the Big Hole Valley
  • Southwest Montana watershed lies between Greater Yellowstone and Bitterroot ecosystems
  • New partnership to expand carcass removal program, eliminating bear attractant from ranches
  • Range Rider collaboration monitors grizzly and wolf movements, coordinate livestock carcass removal, and improve local communication and education