Without doubt, Glacier National Park is in the heart of one of the wildest ecosystems in the lower 48 United States -- the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. But how wild is it when it comes to grizzly bears? A new study will help answer that question.
You could debate for quite a while which national park -- Glacier or Yellowstone -- has a more enthralling wild kingdom. Both, arguably, have the full assemblage of prey and predators that roamed those landscapes in the 18th century.
Going through their resident species is akins to playing wildlife bingo: wolves, grizzlies, black bears, elk, moose, deer, coyotes, mountain lions, etc, etc, etc. While Yellowstone has bison, Glacier has a higher number, and more readily visible, number of mountain goats.
Both have a relatively good number of grizzlies. Now a long-term interagency study of grizzly bears in Glacier will help wildlife biologists get a better idea of the health of the grizzly bear population in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem. Is it on the upswing, steady, or declining?
To collect this information, "bait stations, automated cameras, and traps will be used to capture and monitor grizzly bears within the park," according to a Glacier press release. "The program attempts to maintain a sample of up to 10 radio-marked female grizzly bears out of an estimated population of 300 grizzly bears living in the park."
In an effort to keep park visitors away from bears, the bait stations and trap sites "will be marked with brightly colored warning and closure signs. For safety reasons visitors are reminded to heed and comply with these signs and not enter areas closed for baiting or trapping," the park release said.
There's good reason for these warnings. Last June a man hiking just outside of Yellowstone was fatally mauled by a grizzly that just a short while before had been trapped and drugged by biologists gathering information.
In Glacier, the trapping efforts will continue at various locations from now through October. If you have any questions about the program, you can contact park bear biologist, John Waller, at (406) 888-7829.