New food storage lockers in campsites in southwest Montana will help people and grizzly bears share space, safely

Ahh, springtime. Right now, many animals are active and in search of a good meal and maybe even a mate. In fact, grizzly bears started waking up in Yellowstone as early as March!

After a long winter being stuck in our “dens”, we also have our sights set on a summer of hiking, biking, paddling and so much more. We need some quality time with nature. Can you relate?

If you recreate in Montana, you know there are some incredible opportunities here. For residents and folks exploring locally, the area along the Big Hole River in southwest Montana is a great go-to, especially for camping and fishing.

This area falls within the High Divide, which is a critical part of the Yellowstone to Yukon region and connects the three biggest blocks of protected wildlife habitat in the Lower 48 states: The Greater Yellowstone, Salmon-Selway-Bitterroot, and Crown of the Continent ecosystems.

The green arrows on this map show key grizzly bear connections between protected areas in the northern U.S. Rockies.

Ensuring wildlife can move through this landscape to nearby protected habitats is key to their ability to survive and thrive.

Grizzly bears are a focus of our work to connect and protect landscapes because they are an “umbrella” species. When their populations are healthy, generally other species in that same ecosystem are, too.

But what happens when these iconic (and often misunderstood) creatures are returning to your community and the places you recreate in for the first time in many decades? We see it as an opportunity to learn and grow together.

In summer 2020, we worked with the Bureau of Land Management to get 10 food storage lockers installed in busy campgrounds along the Big Hole River. This year, we are excited that 17 more are planned!


“We brought our knowledge and tried-and-true practices from other places here. It’s exciting to be part of this partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and bring these food storage lockers to this part of the landscape.”

Nick Clarke, Y2Y’s senior U.S. program co-ordinator

When bears are enticed by human food in busy places, they can become habituated. Often, this can result in the bear’s death — or relocation, which isn’t always positive either. Awareness-building that encourages preventative actions like storing food is key for everyone’s safety.

“We brought our knowledge and tried-and-true practices from other places here. It’s exciting to be part of this partnership with the Bureau and bring these food storage lockers to this part of the landscape,” says Nick Clarke, Y2Y’s senior U.S. program co-ordinator.

“These user-friendly, convenient lockers make it more likely that people will use them, resulting in a positive experience for people and bears.”

These lockers are much more than a big hunk of metal. They are one of the tools critical to helping bears stay wild, reconnect with neighboring populations, and thrive into the future.

You help make this partnership possible; and with your continued support, we hope to make a difference for wildlife and people one project at a time!

Header photo: Jason Brooks / Bureau of Land Management – Montana