The IBA is centered around the lower and middle reaches of Bear Canyon (T8S, R26E, sects. 34 & 35; T9S, R26E, sects. 3 & 4), which sits less than 10 km from the Wyoming border in the foothills of the Pryor Mountains. This area is driest in Montana and supports the state's only stands of Utah juniper. The scenery and habitats are spectacular and make for a unique Montana setting reminiscent of the Desert Southwest.
{link:For IBA map, click here.|http://mtaudubon.org/birds/documents/bearcanyon.web.pdf}

Ornithological Summary

Bear Canyon supports breeding populations of more than a dozen species on the Montana Priority Bird Species List. It also has the highest known number of nesting Blue-gray Gnatcatchers among the handful of foothill canyons in the area that constitute the entire range of the species in Montana. The riparian corridor is home to a rich diversity of Neotropical migrants, and the adjacent uplands are inhabited by Common Poorwills, Loggerhead Shrikes, Sage Thrashers, Green-tailed Towhees, Pinyon Jays, and the occasional broods of Greater Sage-Grouse.

Conservation Issues

Cattle grazing has affected the understory of the cottonwood gallery forest in some places, and offroad vehicles have resulted in increased erosion of the slopes adjacent to the canyon bottom. Owners of a limestone quarry on private land 6 km from the IBA would like to expand their operation onto federal lands, posing a potential threat to the site.

Ownership

The IBA consists of two sections owned by Bureau of Land Management and two owned by the U.S. Forest Service.

Habitat

Most of the canyon bottom is a mix of sagebrush/juniper and low desert shrubs. The upper reaches of the canyon contains a beautiful stand of narrow-leaved cottonwoods with a rich understory of shrubs. The surrounding slopes are a mix of Utah juniper, limber pine, and sagebrush. This area is the only place in the state with Utah juniper, and is the driest part of the state.