Swan Valley Bear Resources Reduces Bear-Human Conflicts

August, 10 2017  |  by kevin Back »

Swan Valley is where it all began for Vital Ground. Our very first conservation easement happened in this portion of northwestern Montana, a slender river valley between the Mission Mountains to the west and the Bob Marshall Wilderness to the east.

The Swan Valley continues to hold our largest collection of habitat protection projects. So we were eager to aid Swan Valley Bear Resources (SVBR), a collaborative group doing vital work to reduce bear mortality in the northwest portion of the state.

SVBR is all about education: by teaching landowners about things like bear-resistant garbage containers and bear-proof fencing for livestock, the group is actively reducing the risk of bear-human conflicts.


SVBR was formed in 2005 in response to an alarming trend in grizzly bear mortality. Pooling resources across multiple organizations and agencies to promote education, reduce bear attractants, and minimize conflicts with livestock, they have made great strides in protecting grizzly bears as shown in the video and by the following illustrations.

In 2014, Vital Ground expanded its conservation goals to include reducing conflicts between bears and humans by encouraging and supporting “bear aware” communities within Vital Ground’s priority project areas. We’re honored to contribute to Swan Valley Bear Resources great work!

Yearly distribution of bear-resistant garbage containers/dumpsters placed within the Swan Valley as a result of the loaner program. Numbers reflect additional containers checked out each year compared to the previous year. Containers or dumpsters returned to SVBR in a year are not depicted. Source: Swan Valley Bear Resources 2016 Annual Report.

From 2009 to 2015, Swan Valley Bear Resources assisted 10 landowners with construction of permanent electric bear-exclusion fences. The collaborative comprised of SVBR, the U.S. Forest Service, and Swan Valley Connections assists with the fence building process including site identification, fence design, technical specifications, help to secure funding, purchase of materials, and hands-on fence construction. In 2016, the organization assisted five landowners with electric fencing projects. Photo by Adam Lieberg.

This table from Swan Valley Bear Resources 2016 Annual Report shows Swan Valley Bear Resources responses to conflicts in 2016. One grizzly bear mortality was documented in the Swan Valley in 2016, a result of a vehicle collision on Montana Highway 83.
+BRC – Bear Resistant Container
*Rating system is used to qualify the type of human-bear conflict. These levels are defined as:
Level 1 – Conflict such as a bear near people or around a home or business.
Level 2 – A bear that actively attempts to gain a food reward from human-based attractants such as bird feeders, garbage cans, etc.
Level 3 – Conflict that requires response by agency bear management specialists such as bear-caused damage to home or garage in an attempt to gain access to otherwise secured attractants.