Great Bear Foundation

Removing bear attractants through fruit pickups in the Missoula, Ninemile and Bitterroot valleys.

Apple picking
Photo of grizzly bear and aspens in fall color
Panorama of snow-capped Bitterroot Mountains

Great Bear Foundation PROJECT BRIEF

For those who live on the edge of wild country, fruit trees can bring unwanted guests. In grizzly country, fall apple season can be a dangerous time, as bears hurry to stockpile calories and struggle to steer clear of yards and orchards offering easy picking. To keep bears from obtaining these food rewards and becoming habituated to populated areas, prompt harvesting and pickup of unwanted fruit is a key coexistence practice.

For many years, Vital Ground has supported the Great Bear Foundations efforts in the Missoula foothills to organize community volunteer-driven apple pickups. Recent years have seen 10,000-20,000 pounds of fruit gleaned each fall, with the program reaching as far west as the key Ninemile linkage area. In 2021, we were excited to support further expansion into the Bitterroot Valley, where grizzlies are beginning to reconnect historic range in Montana and Idaho. Keeping these groundbreaking bears out of yards and moving deeper into wild country is vital to long-term connectivity goals, a prime example of how conflict prevention forms a key prong of grizzly recovery.

Great Bear Foundation at a Glance

  • Montana-based international bear conservation organization
  • Fall apple pickup program organizes volunteers to remove major bear attractants
  • Recent seasons have resulted in 10,000-20,000 pounds gleaned in Missoula and Ninemile areas
  • Expanding 2021 program to include Bitterroot Valley, where grizzly presence is increasing