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Americorps To Help Spread The Word About Living In Bear Country

IDAHO FALLS - They come from all across the nation, from Washington State to New York State, their goal is to help themselves while helping others. Next week, the dozen college-aged young people that make up the current Americorps crew working in the Upper Snake Region will be helping to get the word out about living in bear country. Their mission is to distribute educational materials to help humans and bears coexist. The work being done by the Americorps is part of a larger effort by both IDFG and the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Inter-agency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) to promote bear awareness and help reduce conflicts between man and the great bear. Because Eastern Idaho is primarily inhabited by black bears, education efforts focus on general bear information, the importance of proper sanitation, and how to tell the difference between the two species of bears. The Americorps received a lesson in basic bear biology and behavior from Regional Wildlife Conservation Educator Gregg Losinski before heading out to distribute educational materials. According to Losinski, "Our number one message is to help remind people that as long as they are in Idaho, they are in bear country!" Both black bears and grizzly bears are native to the region. While black bears have a permanent presence, grizzly bears are more transitory, moving in and out of Idaho from primarily Yellowstone National Park. The Americorps will spend the week of May 21st canvassing portions of the Targhee National Forest that have traditionally been visited by black bears and sporadically by grizzly bears. The crew will drop off bear awareness materials at cabins and homes in the Palisades, Driggs, and Island Park areas. They will also distribute bear awareness materials to campsites and trailheads. According to Losinski, "Students from Ricks College helped with a smaller outreach four years ago. This longer effort should reach thousands, rather than hundreds of people." A new addition to this educational campaign is the distribution of bear identification coloring place mats to restaurants in the Island Park Area. Anyone wishing to learn more about bears and safety in bear country should contact Losinski at 208-525-7290. Livings in Bear Country workshops are available for interested groups.