7-12, Unit Two, Activity 4: "News Bearly Fit to Print"

This is an archival look at the timing and types of bear-human conflicts, plotting them on a calendar. Students will search local library records in recent years and/or keep a running log of news articles this year.

Grades: 7 – 12
Time: 2 – 3 hours library homework; 2 hours plotting results, discussion and visit by expert, 1 hour plotting locations on clear overlay of map
Subjects: Social studies, biology, geography, journalism, library science

Materials:

  • Copies of yearly calendar for each student
  • Clear transparencies (for extension activity)

Teacher Background:
From Activity 3 in this Unit, students have experienced the reasons grizzlies must sometimes risk a raid on human-associated food. This is a study about newspaper accounts of human–bear conflicts, from microfiche or computer archives. There are numerous websites for more information about bear behavior and avoiding conflicts with bears: visit Glacier's bear webpage as well as the Be Bear Aware website. The Great Bear Foundation also has bear information. The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks website has bear identification, a bear field guide page, and information on avoiding human-bear conflicts.

Procedure:

1. Assign each student in your class to carefully examine two months’ newspaper articles from archives of the local paper. Some newspapers keep actual copies of old papers, but most are copied onto another medium and stored in libraries. The students will be looking for any articles about bears. The students need not check newspapers for December through March – bears are in hibernation.
2. Work backward from the present month and assign each student two months. If each student examines 2 months, and there are 8 months to deal with per year (hibernation Dec. – Mar.), your class should be able to cover the last few years of articles.
3. They need only skim headlines for bear articles. When they find an article about bears, they should record the date, location and type of bear-human conflict – on their yearly calendar.
4. Ask them to delineate between black bear and grizzly encounters.
5. They should also read and take notes on two of the articles. It is important that each student contribute so there are no gaps in the data.
6. Back in class, compile the numbers of conflicts on a large calendar (chalkboard?), putting a mark in each month for each recorded conflict.
7. Students should also use the enclosed calendar as a master to record all the data. As a class, decide the best way to show the data

What patterns do you see in the data? What possible explanations do you have for the patterns? Is food supply during any part of the year related to bear conflict occurrence?

8. Ask students to share a summary of a bear-human conflict they read about (from their notes).

Extensions:

  • Contact Glacier National Park or Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks to have a bear management specialist come to your class to discuss recent and historical bear problems.
  • Using clear transparencies and erasable markers (Vis-à-vis, etc.) plot the locations of bear conflicts on a map. Use one color to mark bear attacks, another to mark “nuisance” problems, and another to mark bears killed by humans.

Are there differences between the areas where black bears and grizzlies get into trouble? Can you see any patterns between types of conflicts and where they happen? What steps can be taken by agencies to minimize problems? What steps can individuals take?

You may wish to overlap historical and modern housing development and roaded area transparency maps with the bear conflict map.

Assessment:
Have students write a newspaper article about minimizing bear-human conflicts. List any things students can do as individuals to minimize their own potential conflicts with bears (hike in groups, feed birds only in winter, put away dog and cat food, garbage storage, etc.).

Last updated: November 8, 2017

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