My Fruit Tree Brings the Bears to the Yard

Black bear in Lincoln Hills

Black bear in Quast Ditch open space, Lincoln Hills, August 2015

As you’ve probably heard or even seen, there are a lot of black bears in the Rattlesnake Valley right now.  The Lolo National Forest just closed several of the more popular trails in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, including Spring Creek and the trails between the main road and the creek (map and announcement) where there have been a higher-than-usual number of bear sightings.

However… you don’t have to go to the wilderness to find bears in the Rattlesnake! If you live in the valley there are probably several bears within a mile of you right now, and it’s better for everyone if those bears stay in the open space corridors instead of in our yards.

Apples on tree, Lincoln HillsThis time of year there are two big things drawing black bears into the residential neighborhoods of our valley: fruit and garbage.

You can help protect your neighbors and the bears.

Don’t put your garbage out till the morning of your pickup!  (If you live in an area with a very early pickup, such as the Lower Rattlesnake, talk to your neighbors who might need help getting their trash out early).

Harvest your apple, pear and plum trees! If you’re too busy or you have too much fruit to handle yourself, there’s good help available from the Great Bear Foundation or from Garden City Harvest. RCWG can mobilize volunteers to help you out too, and we’ll use the apples to make cider at our annual Fall Festival (details soon!).

Dog with bear scat

Discriminating dogs prefer deer poop to bear scat

If you’ve seen bear scat in the past few weeks, you know the bears are eating apples! (Until late August they were eating more cherries and hawthorn berries in my Lincoln Hills neighborhood). Apples themselves won’t hurt bears, but as bears go into yards and spend time near houses and other nearby food sources, they become habituated and potentially dangerous. These bears may need to be removed and in some cases killed. That typically happens to up to a dozen or so bears in the Rattlesnake each year, but in recent years we’ve had better statistics as people have done better at managing attractants like garbage and apples. It’s better for the bears if we harvest the apples for ourselves.

Missoula Bears has a good overview of bear attractants and what you can do about them.  (Fruit and garbage aren’t the only attractants–they can help you with others like chicken coops, compost, etc.)  Missoula Bears is also the place to report a bear sighting or get additional information.

Give Local Missoula Day 2015

Proud-ParticipantRCWG is participating in this year’s Give Local Missoula Day, an online event that lasts 24 hours starting at midnight tonight (Tuesday, May 5th, from 12:01 a.m. till 11:59 p.m.).  You can help us out by donating online here.

Last year was Missoula’s first year participating in the national Give Local America Day, and the results were better than organizers expected: 90 local nonprofit groups participated, and our community made over 1900 donations totaling more than $135,000.  This year there are more nonprofit groups, including 18 environmental organizations whose company RCWG is proud to share :-).

This year a number of other towns in Montana have organized their own local efforts. So in the spirit of friendly competition, please help keep Missoula #1 in terms of local nonprofit support!

If you choose to donate to RCWG this year (and even if you don’t donate), we’d really appreciate your input on priorities you’d like to see for our group.  In recent years we’ve worked on issues related to environmental restoration, improving fish habitat, combating noxious weeds and harvesting Rattlesnake apples to help bears and people avoid conflicts.  Tell us what you’d like to see in a few words or sentences with your donation or by email.  Thanks!

Rattlesnake Creek Bank Revegetation

newly-planted pine seedling inside the fenced bank stabilization areaIf you’ve hiked up the main trail in the Rattlesnake Recreation Area, you’ve noticed the fenced off area just downstream from the “horse bridge”.  Last year RCWG joined forces with the Lolo N.F. to plant trees and shrubs within that fenced off area where the streambank was rebuilt.  The broadleaved shrubs (wild rose, willow, dogwood, etc.) that we planted last year all seem pretty well established, but sadly, the ponderosa pine seedlings experienced frost damage and mostly died off during the year.  So last week we went back up with some fresh young trees to try again.

These little pines will need some extra watering to make it through the coming summer.  If you’re hiking by and notice that they look dry, please drop us a line and we’ll send someone out.  Better yet, you can join us as a volunteer–we’ve got some watering cans stashed nearby.  Send us an email and we’ll send you some more information–there are a couple dozen ponderosa seedlings and some of them are a little hard to find among the branches and downed trees that are providing extra cover on the site.

The Lolo N.F. specialists will determine when it’s time to take down the fencing–it’ll probably stay up through this year.

Marshall Woods Field Trips

The public comment period has been extended for the Marshall Woods Environmental Assessment. You have until the end of this month (April 30th) to submit substantive comments on the plan.  One (or two) way(s) to learn more about the project would be to join a guided field trip of parts of the project.

Image from the Lolo N.F. Marshall Woods Restoration Project information page (click on image for link to pdf document). This graphic is used by project proponents to illustrate the potential improvement in ecological "resilience" of managed forests in this region.

Image from the Lolo N.F. Marshall Woods Restoration Project information page (click on image for link to pdf document). This graphic is used by project proponents to illustrate the potential improvement in ecological “resilience” of managed forests in this region.

Specialists from the Lolo Restoration Committee and the Lolo N.F. Missoula Ranger District will lead field trips on Tuesday, April 14th (5-8 p.m.) and Saturday, April 18th (1-5 p.m.).  The Tuesday trip will start near the Main Rattlesnake Trailhead; the Saturday trip will take place adjacent to Marshall Canyon near the Woods Gulch (Section 31) portion of the project area. Note: Saturday trip will meet at Eastgate Shopping Center at 1:00, travel in F.S. shuttle vehicles to field trip.

For additional information please consult the project information page which has links to the full Environmental Assessment and an updated list of FAQs. This is an important project that will have impacts (both positive and negative) on the ecosystems and the recreational users of the Rattlesnake NRA, Woods Gulch and Marshall Canyon areas.

Marshall Woods Environmental Assessment

Main Rattlesnake NRA road

Main Rattlesnake NRA road at the 1.7-mile mark, March 2013 (the ice isn’t nearly that bad this year!)

The Lolo National Forest has released its Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Marshall Woods Restoration Project, “an integrated project to improve forest stand conditions and reduce hazardous fuels in the lower Rattlesnake Creek drainage and the Marshall Creek-Woods Gulch area”.  They’re hosting a public meeting this coming Wednesday evening, March 18th, 6-8 p.m. at the Doubletree Hotel. Public comment will be accepted through April 6th.  The RCWG is evaluating the proposed actions this month and we’ll be submitting comments.

As you can see from the the Lolo NF links and the Google Earth view below, this project is pretty big–the project area encompasses about 20 square miles, and “treatment” (mainly thinning and prescribed burning, along with some trail and road modification and noxious weed control) is proposed for almost 4,000 acres within the Rattlesnake and Marshall Creek watersheds.

Read the rest of this entry

3rd Annual Fall Festival on Sunday, October 26th

It’s happening again!

Very nice weather at the 2013 Fall Festival! If it's colder this year, you can warm up with fresh-pressed hot apple cider!

We enjoyed very nice weather at the 2013 Fall Festival (pictured above). Don’t worry, if it’s colder this year you can warm up with fresh-pressed hot apple cider!

Sunday, October 26th, 12-4 p.m. @ Ten Spoon Winery. Read more about it and we hope to see you there!

Apple Season

Honeycrisp Apples in Lincoln Hills, Rattlesnake Valley, Missoula

Honeycrisp Apples in Lincoln Hills, Rattlesnake Valley, Missoula

There are a lot of apples (and pears) on trees in the Rattlesnake Valley this year.  That’s both good and bad news. The bad news is that these fruits are a major attractant for wildlife like deer and bears, and once those animals get habituated to people and homes, they’ll get into more trouble that won’t end well for either the animals or the people.

Fortunately, the Rattlesnake Valley grows delicious fruit. There are lots of great recipes for apple and pear products, and if you have a lot of them you can press cider. (The MUD Project is a good place to rent a press).  If you want fruit but don’t have any fruit trees of your own, you can volunteer with the Great Bear Foundation–see contact information below. On the other hand, if you have more fruit than you can use yourself, please contact RCWG and we’ll put your apples and pears (and maybe plums) to use at our October 26th Fall Festival (official announcement coming soon!), or (if we can’t feed them to people) we’ll donate them to Opportunity Resources where they’re used as animal feed.

If you have fruit trees that are ready to be picked, here are two great organizations that mobilize volunteers to pick and glean fruit and put it to its most beneficial use:

Great Bear Foundation (contact Chris Olsen, Volunteer Coordinator, 406-829-9378, chris@greatbear.org)

Garden City Harvest/PEAS Farm (“Gleaning Hotline”: 406-543-4992)

And please feel free to contact RCWG by email or phone Eric @ 406-240-1986 for more information or to donate fruit for use at the Fall Festival. Thanks!

 

Assault on Buckthorn Island: planned for Tuesday, August 19th, 5:00 p.m.

Volunteers from the Clark Fork Coalition and RCWG have spent several evenings pulling buckthorn seedlings and saplings along the western banks of Rattlesnake Creek adjacent to the PEAS Farm.

Buckthorn shrub with 5-foot weed wrench for scale

Buckthorn shrub with 5-foot weed wrench for scale

On our last outing in early August, CFC colunteer coordinator Bryce and I discovered what we hope is the original infestation of buckthorn along Rattlesnake Creek.
These aren’t just weeds–they’re trees. The largest stem is more than two inches in diameter. Even with a weed wrench, we won’t be pulling these plants out by the roots. But according to experts such as the Minnesota DNR (buckthorn is a more well-established and problematic invader in the Midwest than it is in Montana–so far!) we can control these plants by cutting them near the soil and covering the cut stem with black plastic, or by treating the cut stem with an appropriate herbicide (we will consult with weed specialist Morgan Valliant at the City before we embark on any poisoning–it sounds like just covering the stems may do the job).

Buckthorn berries

Buckthorn berries

We need to act fast because these buckthorns are mature adults, on the verge of reproducing–i.e. they’ve got lots of berries that are starting to ripen, after which they will be eaten and dispersed by birds (not by mammals or humans, since they’re poisonous to our kind–the original Anglo Saxon name of this plant is “purging buckthorn” which matches its scientific name Rhamnus cathartica L.)(yup, that “L.” stands for Linnaeus–the big guy–this plant goes way back in northern Europe :-) ).

So we’ll go back out there one last time (for this year, anyway) with our weed wrenches and also with clippers, loppers, pruning saws, garbage bags for the fruiting branches, and plenty of determination to eradicate buckthorn from one small island along the western edge of Rattlesnake Creek. You can help! Contact us by email and then show up at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 19th, at the end of Mountain View Drive on the west side of the creek, off Duncan Drive south of the PEAS Farm.

Buckthorn report

A quick report from the front lines of the battle against invasive weeds:

buckthorn

Buckthorn sapling

Last night Bryce Gray from the Clark Fork Coalition’s Volunteer Corps led a group of about 6 people armed with various weed-removal tools to an area along the west bank of Rattlesnake Creek (approximate location here) where an invasive European shrub called “buckthorn” (Rhamnus cathartica) has taken hold.  We pulled a few dozen plants ranging from 1 to 5 feet in height, along with a few houndstongues whose seeds we bagged for safe disposal.  Future trips will be scheduled to contain and knock back this invader.  Check with CFC for details.

If you go, try to bring a weed wrench–last night was my first experience with this fabulous tool which works great for a small slippery shrub like buckthorn.

The Buckthorn Stops Here

The Clark Fork Coalition’s Volunteer Corps is partnering with Parks and Rec for a weed pull on Rattlesnake Creek on Tues, July 8 at 5:30 pm. Meet at Pineview Park, bring gloves and a good attitude :)

Buckthorn is an aggressive introduced plant that is choking out native vegetation along Rattlesnake Creek. Will you help us pull this nasty invasive that’s causing havoc along one of Missoula’s most beloved backyard creeks? Bring gloves and sturdy shoes and meet us at Pineview Park on Tuesday, July 8th at 5:30 pm.

___
for more information, please contact:
Jill Alban | Outreach Director | Clark Fork Coalition
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