Excerpt from MONTANA: Voices of the Swan
An Upper Swan Valley Historical Society Publication by SUZANNE M. VERNON, 2011
It’s a chilly November morning and Bud Moore is telling stories at the kitchen table in his warm log cabin. His blue eyes dance as he talks and nods his head, his voice strong and sure. He is remembering earlier times, when he and his late wife, Janet, spent hours exploring the forested landscape surrounding their home.
The conversation wraps around a story about a bear tree that grows north of this property, on land owned by a local timber company. Generations of bears have scratched and scarred the bark of the towering ponderosa pine. Biologists don’t completely understand why the bears mark the trees the way they do. Moore offers a simple explanation.
“It’s a place where the bears rendezvous, a spot where they get together and talk things out, kind of like we do here, only in bear language,” laughs, entertaining the visitors seated at his table.
The story continues, as he explains that his late wife, Janet, was in love with the big, old tree.
“She had a great passion for this bear tree, and we would often walk people down there to see it,” he said. Janet earned loyal friends while she lived in the Swan Valley. She served as the local representative to the State legislature for many years, and in 1996, she made it known that she wanted the tree to be left in the woods for the bears.
“We knew that the timber company was going to log that area, and we asked the forester if he would consider saving that tree,” Moore explained. The company representative agreed to take a look at the monarch in the woods. However, one day while Bud was snowshoeing near his cabin, he saw loggers working in the area, and the bear tree was marked to be cut.
He returned home and made some phone calls. A few days later he joined the company forester and the logger at the site.
“I gave them the story of this tree, as far we knew it, including how important it was to Janet and the bears,” Moore explained. “My argument was, why not leave this tree?”
The logger agreed with Bud. “He really surprised me. There’s four thousand board feet, at least, in that tree. It’s high value timber,” Moore said.
The three men marveled at the many claw marks scribed diagonally into the light brown bark of the tree’s massive trunk, including several far above their heads. Then, without a word, the company forester walked right up to the tree, grinning. He reached his arms around the stately pine and patted its ample girth.
“Janet loves this tree, and so do I,” he announced. “We’re going to save this tree.”
The blue paint that marked the tree for cutting was impossible to remove without chopping the bark away. “So we decided to just let the bears scratch it off,” Moore said. “And they did.” Twelve years later, the tree still stands, it’s trunk newly scratched and clawed. Only a trace of paint remains.
Bud Moore at his house at Coyote Forest. John Fraley photo.
Bud Moore inside the warehouse at Coyote Forest with furs from the winter of 1986-87. The pelts include coyote, ermine, marten and mink.
Bud Moore Photographs and Sound Recordings
Montana Memory Project
The archival collection of William Robert “Bud” Moore is now available at the Mansfield Library at the University of Montana. The collection includes personal journals, photographs, research files, interviews, correspondence and other materials created by and about the late forester, conservationist and longtime resident of the Swan Valley.