Valley Journal
Valley Journal

This Week’s e-Edition

Current Events

Latest Headlines

What's New?

Send us your news items.

NOTE: All submissions are subject to our Submission Guidelines.

Announcement Forms

Use these forms to send us announcements.

Birth Announcement

Bear spray skills taught at festival

Hey savvy news reader! Thanks for choosing local. You are now reading
1 of 3 free articles.

Subscribe now to stay in the know!

Already a subscriber? Login now

PABLO – A sub-adult grizzly bear weighing 390 pounds stood on the grass at Salish Kootenai College to welcome people to the Fifth Annual Community Birds and Bears Festival on Thursday.

The grizzly looked like it might be walking through campus on its way to forage for food, but it turns out that it wasn’t going anywhere. It died 20 years ago after being hit by a car. Chuck Bartlebaugh with “Be Bear Aware” set the stuffed bear up as an educational tool. Bartlebaugh was showing people how to use a can of bear spray in an effort to save lives should anyone encounter a live bear. 

“Create a cloud of spray in front of the bear,” he said. “You don’t need to aim the spray at them.” He also recommended holding the can steady, so people don’t spray towards the sky, and popping off the safety cap by hooking a thumb around the front, not by pressing on the top of it. 

Birds are usually center stage during the festival, but this year, bears were added into the mix to give people more educational experiences. CSKT Wildlife Biologist Whisper Camel Means said bears would continue to be in the annual fair.  

CSKT Wildlife Biologist Shannon Clairmont set up a metal bear trap, often used to catch and relocate problem bears. He recommends keeping an electric fence around livestock, storing garbage in an enclosed area, and picking up fallen fruit to keep the bears from becoming a problem. He said people can contact the tribe for details about a program to help pay for electric fencing.

Birds of all kinds were at the event along with many activities. The Mission Valley Audubon Society brought their collection of educational materials. CSKT Biologist Dale Becker talked about trumpeter swans. Montana Wild Wings displayed a few live owls, and falconers showed people how to hold a live hawk. “I was shaking when I held it without a glove,” said Drew Holmlund, 9. “With the glove, it felt really light.”

During the opening ceremony, Johnny Arlee, tribal elder, talked about the importance of respecting the environment and the animals. “We must have respect for all living things,” he said. 

Drummers Yamncut played two songs while dancers Ardon McDonald, 16, and Atwen Quequesah, 8, danced. McDonald later said bird feathers were important to tribal regalia and dance. He pointed out the eagle and hawk feathers he wore. 

During the event, Frank Tyro shared a documentary film about Chuck Jonkel’s work as a pioneer bear biologist called “Walking Bear Comes Home.” He said Jonkel conducted the first capture-and-handling studies on black bears in Montana in 1959. He then went on to study polar bears from 1966 to 1976. He returned to Montana to work with grizzly bears on the Border Grizzly Project and teach at the University of Montana. Jonkel died in 2016. More information on the film can be found at

Wildlife Biologist Steph Gillin announced the winners of the 15th Annual Third-Grade Bird-Drawing Contest during the event. Myles Schmeusser of Dayton took first place with a drawing of a western meadowlark. Sarah Templer of Ronan took second with her image of a sandhill crane. Lex Lafrombois of St. Ignatius took third with his drawing of geese, a bald eagle, and a loon. The People’s Choice Award went to Maddox Bird of Polson for his ruby-throated hummingbird.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Natural Resource Department, the SKC Natural Resources Program, and the Mission Mountain Chapter of the Audubon Society hosted the event. 

Sponsored by: