Hiking in the Yukon. Image: Pat Morrow
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"I BELIEVE in connected landscapes; so connected that my children can walk from one point to another."
Chris Bunting, Y2Y Supporter since 2007

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What Are Those Little Bags Hanging From the Pine Tree

In this collaborative project with Montana State University, ingenious methods are used to protect important White Pine trees from hungry and destructive insects.

By Brad Bauer

The area of Montana between Yellowstone National Park and the northwest mountains in Montana is called the High Divide Linkage Zone. Wildlife use the High Divide Linkage Zone to access habitat across their range. One of these species is the grizzly bear. Along their travels grizzly bears find food from various sources - including the pine nuts supplied by whitebark pine.

The rugged white bark pine graces many of our high elevation forest and the pine nuts it produces are a preferred food source for these transient grizzly bears. Years when the pine nuts are scarce, grizzly bears will travel widely to search for alternative food sources, including your bird feeder or trash.

Whitebark pine have five needles and look a bit “softer” than most of the other pines in the area.

The supply of whitebark pine nuts naturally varies from year to year. Outbreaks of the mountain pine beetle can result in the death of mature white bark pine forest leaving grizzly bears to search for other food sources for many years to come.

The little white bags installed the pine trees release a pheromone that deters these insect from making a home in these important trees. These small pheromone packets signal to the mountain pine beetle that your forest has “no vacancy”.

White Bark Pine Bag Installation Installing pheromone packets. Photo: Brad Bauer

Montana State University Extension – Gallatin County has received a generous Partner Grant from the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative to install these pheromone packets in white bark pine forest in the Big Sky, Montana area.

These packets will only signal “no vacancy” for one year. As awareness of whitebark pine continues to grow hopefully we all can step forward in helping the whitebark pine.