Taking Wildlife Science to the Community

By Taylor King

Montana Image Credit: Jenah Mead

The fall semester of 2014 was an exciting one for the University of Montana’s Student Chapter of The Wildlife Society. The 40+ members maintain an active schedule with weekly meetings and frequent weekend events. This year the Student Chapter is taking a special interest in community involvement. The students work with local wildlife agencies, present in schools, and promote community awareness of conservation issues.

Montana

Image Credit: Jenah Mead

The year started off with a bang with the third annual wire roll. Forty-two members partnered with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) and Backcountry Horseman of Missoula to remove hazardous barbed wire in the Blackfoot Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Overall, 3.25 miles of barbed wire was removed.

Jay Kolbe, an FWP biologist who helped organize the event, explained the value of fence removal.

“These fences had become a hazard to both wildlife and horsemen using the WMA. Because taking them down is extremely labor intensive, having such a large and enthusiastic group pitch in made a huge project like this possible.”

Montana

Image Credit: Jenah Mead

UM’s Chapter also maintains an ongoing education program on bear safety. Tucked into the Rocky Mountains, bear sightings frequently occur in Missoula. With abundant apple orchards and neighborhoods concealed into the surrounding woods, public outreach on the importance of picking up fallen fruit and properly disposing of trash is a community service the chapter is happy to provide. Over the fall semester UM’s Chapter put on five “Be Bear Aware” outreach events at local elementary schools. In addition, 14 members harvested over 200 pounds of fruit from a local orchard that had been experiencing black bear activity.

In addition to the “Be Bear Aware” campaign, members have been giving presentations to elementary schools about their experiences with wildlife jobs and encouraging young minds to pursue a future in science.

For the holidays, the Chapter gathered an estimated $800 worth of donations to help a local family of five and a homeless veteran.

The Student Chapter provides opportunities for members to learn basic wildlife job skills on free weekends. These weekend projects included lessons in small mammal trapping, telemetry, orienteering, and ear tagging. In total, 27 members participated in these events throughout the fall semester.

For more information on the Chapter’s upcoming events, check out our Facebook page.