Glacier National Park Officials Urge Visitors to Be "Bear Aware"

Two bear cubs have been killed this year on Glacier National Park roads. NPS photo.

At Glacier National Park, officials are urging visitors to be extra-cautious around bears. Two bear cubs have been killed by vehicles in the park already this year, and hikers continue to encounter bears in potentially dangerous circumstances.

The peak season at Glacier National Park brings increased encounters with animals on the roads and trails. Drivers need to be alert, since vehicle-animal collisions can kill or seriously injure both animals and motorists. Glacier is home to elk, moose, deer, bears, wolves, mountain lions, lynx, wolverines, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and other large mammals that may be encountered on roads as well as trails.

Encounters with bears are common in the park. Sadly, two bear cubs have died on the park roads this year. One was killed by a driver who immediately reported the incident. The other was found dead and had suffered injuries consist with being hit by a vehicle. Drivers are reminded to obey the park speed limits and drive with due regard for bears and other wildlife that may be on or near the roads.

Hikers and backpackers are particularly at risk of encountering bears under potentially dangerous circumstances. To minimize the risk of injury or death (and lethal consequences for the problem bears involved), all trail users are urged to heed the rules and guidelines pertaining to hiking and camping in bear country.

There are some standard safety procedures:

• Never travel alone or after dark.
• Make loud recurring noise when in bear country, especially near streams, brush, hilltops and blind curves.
• Keep children close and within sight.
• Always be aware of local surroundings.
• Remain observant and alert for evidence of bears and mountain lions and/or their activity.
• Do not approach any wildlife; use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.
• Trail running is not recommended as it can lead to surprising bears at close range.
• Keep food and other attractants as inaccessible as practicable.

Responsible food handling is an absolute must. Food must be stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes. It is never to be left unattended in campgrounds or picnic areas. All garbage must be deposited in bear-resistant trash cans or dumpsters. Preventing bears from becoming conditioned to human food helps keep food, personal property, people, and bears safe.

For additional relevant information, visit the park's web page Bears, Mountain Lions, Wildlife, Water and Watch Your Step.

Comments

Not surprisingly, park biologists know the guidance and carry bear spray, not guns, unless they're specifically going after problem bears. [I'd bet the bear spray was hanging on the outside of his backpack, not "in" it.] From InsideNPS today:

Park Biologist Wards Off Charging Bear With Spray

By Gus Martinez, Bay District Ranger
July 30, 2010

Park biologist Craig Murdoch was conducting a fisheries survey on the Bartlett River trail late on the morning of July 27th. While hiking along the shoreline of the river, he heard movement in the grass across the river from him, a distance of about 150 feet. As he turned to see what was making the noise, he saw a full grown brown bear charging towards him. Murdoch yelled at the bear and grabbed for his bear spray, which was in his backpack. The bear continued its charge and got within about 15 feet when Murdoch sprayed him. The bear veered away, continued running into the woods, and did not return for a second pass. The Bartlett River trail is temporarily closed until a full assessment of the area can be conducted. This is the first documented behavior of this type by brown bears along this river, although they’re in the area fishing for sockeye salmon. The park provides training for all staff who work in the backcountry in the use and deployment of bear spray, including simulation of incidents of this type.

Tomp--the incident you relate occurred in Glacier BAY National Park (Alaska), not Glacier NP in Montana. Nonetheless, studies have shown that bear spray is more effective than weapons to deter a threatening bear. The spray disperses into a broader area, whereas firing a weapon requires someone to aim accurately when they are probably pumped up with adrenaline. It is wise to carry bear spray!

Jack Hanna (of the Columbus Zoo) recently used bear spray to ward off a grizzly cub.

It never ceases to amaze me at mindset of people who insist on going up into the High Lonesome
either to camp, hike, etc. and think that park rangers and others have rid the parks of the wildlife or that
the wildlife there are tame, cute and cuddly and are so bewildered as to why they are attacked/killed.
I believe we are the only country that feel we must be spoon fed and do NOT believe in taking responsibility for our own actions. You go into THEIR TERRITORY, either respect and learn how to live with them or GET OUT/STAY OUT!!!! Certain times of the year need to be off limits to folks, such as birthing season. Moms
of just about all species tend to get very upset and aggressive when folks get between them and their
babies. I am so sorry that these encounters go down badly for the people but more sadly the loss of a wildlife for doing nothing other than what Nature created it to do. YOU PAYS YOUR MONIES, YOU TAKES YOUR CHANCES!!

I encountered 4 grizzly bears on the Iceberg Lake trail in Glacier Nat'l Park when I was there last week. I didn't need to use my bear spray or my gun (which I carried as a backup in case the spray failed or the wind was in my face). It was pretty windy where I saw them. But, the insane tourists approaching the bear and her 3 cubs, standing within 20' of them to take photos, surely were a great barrier for me, who backed up and left the trail.

CP--

I posted the release from InsideNPS (I couldn't figure out how to blockquote).

I didn't say it was Glacier NP; that the bear aware article was GLAC and the incident was at GLBA was coincidence. My point was that NPS biologists at all units with bears get substantial training on how to handle such situations. I can't imagine going into bear country without bear spray, and without some reasonable training on bear behavior and how to use the spray. I probably should have put my comment in the bear shooting in Denali followup instead of this one, but I was too busy & lazy to track down that thread.

ps: not a lot of sockeye salmon in GLAC, plus they more commonly call Ursus arctos horribilis "grizzly" rather than "brown" down in Montana.

tomp:
I didn't say it was Glacier NP; that the bear aware article was GLAC and the incident was at GLBA was coincidence. My point was that NPS biologists at all units with bears get substantial training on how to handle such situations. I can't imagine going into bear country without bear spray, and without some reasonable training on bear behavior and how to use the spray. I probably should have put my comment in the bear shooting in Denali followup instead of this one, but I was too busy & lazy to track down that thread.
I personally got the distinct impression that your comment was a general one about NPS training to deal with the possibility of attacks in brown bear habitats, and that the Glacier Bay reference was merely an example.

However - there are some black bear areas on NPS land where bear spray (or even personal-protection pepper spray) is considered a weapon and is not legal to carry. I think even in Yosemite the restriction on weapons holds, except for firearms as placed into law recently. It's been my impression that NPS units where the superintendent has approved the carry of bear pepper spray are typically those with brown/grizzly bears which tend to be more aggressive - most notably sows with cubs.

I mentioned the recent Eldorado National Forest campground incident in another article comment. The camper who confronted the bear and got lashed also apparently shot at it. I don't know about the safety of shooting guns in a crowded campground, but since it was Forest Service land, he was legally possessing a loaded weapon. He also stored his cooler in a covered gazebo over the site's picnic table, and not in his vehicle (this campground didn't have bear boxes) like all the posted requirements. As far as I'm concerned, he should have known better.