Huckleberries are a keystone species supporting many animals; a charismatic plant species appealing to visitors, a traditional and contemporary human food, and a primary black bear and grizzly bear food. Understanding when, where, how and how many berries develop will allow comparison of alternative management strategies for huckleberries under predicted future weather and climate patterns that include earlier onset of spring, warmer temperatures and more variable extreme weather.
This program will engage visitors and volunteers, in addition to technicians, to collect phenology and productivity data and create predictive maps that identify areas with high berry yields under likely weather scenarios. The maps can be used to prioritize protection of high-yield berry patches from development or severe fires. The park will use the information to modify human picking regulations in years when weather conditions indicate few berries will be available overall. Additionally, predictions for when and where berries are ripe will help managers time messages to the public about bears and attractant management, potentially decreasing human-bear conflicts.
This project also will allow even short-term visitors to learn about bears and huckleberries. A new mobile geocaching-like app will guide visitors to berry shrubs to take a picture and answer questions about the timing of berry development.
This will directly inform conservation of grizzly bears, other wildlife including black bears, grouse, multiple birds, many insects and important pollinators (a new federal priority), and management of berry-loving visitors.