Climate Change Huckleberries and Grizzly Bears in Montana
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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Climate Change, Huckleberries, and Grizzly Bears in Montana

Help scientists to understand and predict the impact of climate change on huckleberries, a critical food source for grizzly bears and other species in Montana.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Huckleberries provide the calories bears need during a period of time when they’re fattening up for hibernation and reproduction.  

Low food resources could lead bears and other species to search for food outside of their typical range, where they could come into conflict with humans.

In the northwestern U.S., climate change threatens to impact the availability and abundance of huckleberries. What remains unknown, however, is which changes in particular – from water availability to temperature to pollination – will have the most significant impacts and how they interact. It is also unclear how these changes will influence bears, grouse, elk, and many other species that depend on huckleberries as a key food resource.

Help scientists to create maps that can serve as an “early-warning system”

Help scientists to create maps that can serve as an “early-warning system” for areas likely to have fewer huckleberries, leading to more bear movement.

Using experimental methods, scientists are working to sort out and measure the effects of individual changes in weather and insects on the success of huckleberries. If they find, for example, that low pollination has the largest influence in huckleberry production, scientists and policy-makers could devise new ways to promote the health of bees and other pollinators in the region.  

The research will help USGS scientists in understanding the interacting effects of weather, insects, and other conditions that influence huckleberry productivity. USGS will combine this with other data to build maps that can serve as a tool to understand the consistency and location of high productivity huckleberry patches across years. Such maps enable managers to identify more resilient patches that have high productivity in low precipitation years and prioritize areas for restoration or conservation and protection from high severity wildfires. The maps can also serve as an “early-warning system” for low-productivity regions, where bears and other species may roam outside of their typical range in search of food. Predicting this movement in advance could help wildlife managers to prevent conflict with humans.  

About the research area

Flathead National Forest, Montana, U.S., United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Maria
Mantas
Executive Director at Swan Valley Connections

ABOUT Maria Mantas

Maria Mantas is the Executive Director of Swan Valley Connections, a conservation and experiential learning non-profit located in Montana’s scenic Swan Valley. Maria’s team uses innovative, state-of-the-art research methods to determine the impact of climate change on bear foods such as huckleberries, alongside citizen scientists.

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Accommodations and Food

Accommodations and Food

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