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USGS developing special huckleberry program in Montana

Posted at 8:17 AM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 10:17:51-04

GLACIER NATIONAL PARK – Huckleberries are now in season and MTN News spent some time with a biologist who is a part of a federal program that’s studying the popular berry.

Tabitha Graves is a research ecologist with US Geological Survey (USGS) who is working on a special huckleberry project. She’s been gathering data to understand why berries grow in some places over others and when there are more berries in some places.

Graves explained that it mostly has to do with temperature, humidity, and rainfall. While huckleberries exist in Northwest states she told us why Montana has the perfect climate for these berries.

“Huckleberries in the Northwest have been here a long time and a lot of that is associated with these cooler temperatures that we have, in general, and these wetter environments,” Graves explained. “So, we start to find fewer berry shrubs when we start to get out in the area where it’s dryer and hotter.”

This year’s huckleberry growth is average and if you’re looking to pick berries right now, Graves says she’s found more berries at lower elevations. However, she does suggest being careful when you’re picking to not damage the berry’s leaves.

“When you damage leaves of plants in general, that’s what they use to conduct photosynthesis to feed themselves,” explained Graves who says the program will finish data collection within the year.

People interested in picking in Glacier National Park should know that the Park allows a quart of berries daily per person for personal use only. Graves noted that people should always carry bear spray and be alert at all times while picking.

You can actually help the USGS study huckleberries and Graves says if you love to hike and pick berries, you’re the perfect candidate.

Click here for more information on how you can get involved in the USGS project.

By Maren Siu – MTN News