Island Park groups secure grants for bear awareness campaign - East Idaho News

Island Park groups secure grants for bear awareness campaign

  Published at file photo; Courtesy video

ISLAND PARK — Three Island Park community groups are working together to help raise awareness that Island Park is bear country.

The Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance, Involved Property Owners of Island Park and Bear Aware Island Park have combined forces and received grants from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, according to a news release from the groups. Combined with member contributions from Henrys Fork Wildlife Alliance, the grants will help fund a variety of outreach and bear safety activities.

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

“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 Jeff Keay, an Island Park resident who spent 12 years directing the Human-Bear Management Program in Yosemite National Park.

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 have petitioned the county to adopt the ordinance based on the lessons he learned while protecting wildlife and people, the news release states.

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“I learned that humans are not as keen about protecting those food sources. Public information and education (are) important but (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 states in the news release.

He says bears are highly motivated to access foods high in protein, fats and carbohydrates. With powerful shoulders, a keen sense of smell and an insatiable curiosity for exploring novel objects, bears are experts at discovering and exploiting human food sources.

“Any food reward trains bears to approach people; securing food and trash protects both people and bears,” Keay says. “This is important because human-bear conflicts can lead to human injuries and death and (jeopardize) bears.”

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The groups say the grant money will also fund advertising in the Island Park News. This weekly publication reaches thousands of visitors passing through Island Park each year. Additionally, the grants will support social media, a dedicated website, signs on roads entering Island Park, mailings, community meetings, distribution of bear education materials and other efforts.

Another critical aspect of the effort will be the purchase of inert (practice) bear spray cans to help the Idaho Department of Fish and Game train 1,800 hunters, anglers and recreationists for bear encounters. Raising awareness of bear spray can help save lives.

Anyone interested in helping with the campaign can contact any of the following people: