Island Park is Bear Country Project Announcement!

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Island Park is Bear Country Project Announcement!

Island Park groups win grants to focus on bear awareness

Three Island Park community groups are working together to help raise awareness that Island Park is Grizzly and Black Bear country.

By combining forces, the groups have obtained grants from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which together with member contributions from Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance will help fund a variety of outreach and bear safety activities. The three groups are the Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance, Involved Property Owners of Island Park and Bear Aware Island Park.

The goal of the grants is to promote awareness and bear-safe practices as many as possible of the estimated 150,000 people who live, visit, or recreate in the Island Park area.

“We want people to realize that the wildlife of Greater Yellowstone is an important community value and that Island Park is Grizzly and Black Bear Country,” says Dr. Jeff Keay, Island Park resident who spent 12 years directing the Human-Bear Management Program in Yosemite National Park. “Any food reward trains bears to approach people; securing food and trash protects both bears and the people who come after you. This is important because close encounters between humans and bears can lead to human injuries and death and jeopardize bears.”

He says bears are highly motivated to access food high in protein, fats, and carbohydrates. With powerful shoulders, a keen sense of smell, and an insane curiosity for exploring novel objects, bears are experts at discovering and exploiting human food sources. “I learned that humans are not as keen about protecting those food sources. Public information and education are important but typically don’t motivate a change in human behavior. The only way we solved the problem in Yosemite was to provide simple, easy ways for people to store their food and garbage and then strictly enforce those regulations.”

Keay and others met with the Fremont County Commissioners this week to announce more than $14,000 in funding and to encourage the adoption of a bear-resistant container ordinance. Island Park residents petitioned the county to adopt such an ordinance, because of the lessons Jeff and others learned protecting wildlife and people.

The grant money will be used for advertising in the weekly Island Park News which reaches thousands of visitors passing through Island Park regularly. It will also target social media, a dedicated website, highway signage on roads entering the Island Park, mailings, community meetings, distribution of bear education materials, and other events.

Another important aspect of the effort will be the purchase of inert bear spray cans to help the Idaho Department of Fish and Game train 1,800 hunters, anglers, and recreationists for bear encounters. This will be used to raise awareness that bear spray can help save lives.

Anyone interested in helping with the campaign can contact Jean Bjerke, Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance,; Teri Ehresman, Involved Property Owners of Island Park,; or Austen Stevens, Bear Aware Island Park,