Bears on the Prowl in Glacier National Park
Contact: Bill Hayden, 406-888-7927
GLACIER, MONT. – Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier National Park. Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright remarked, “Bear tracks in the snow are a good reminder that Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors need to be alert for bear activity and to be familiar with and comply with safety regulations.”
Recreational visitors should travel in groups and make loud noise by calling out and/or clapping their hands at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots and curves on trails. These actions will help avoid surprise encounters. Do not approach any wildlife; instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.
Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These actions help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.
Cartwright added, “One of the reasons people visit the park is to experience a vast wild land, capable of supporting a healthy population of both black and grizzly bears. While here park visitors are encouraged to carry, and know how to properly use, bear spray. We want everyone to have a safe experience while enjoying the park.” No single deterrent is 100 percent effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved.
Federal law allows the carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges consistent with state laws. Glacier managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ statement: "If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort; wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger."
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50 percent of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.
Web site links of interest:
Glacier National Park Bear Information Page:
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tips for Living and Recreating in Grizzly Bear Country:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Encountering a Bear:
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Bear spray:
Center for Wildlife Information:
Visitors should report any bear sightings or signs of bear activity to the nearest visitor center, ranger station or by calling 406-888-7800 as soon as possible. This information helps park rangers keep bears away from unnatural food sources, as well as prevents bears from becoming habituated to humans.
Cartwright further noted, “While feeding of any wildlife is illegal in Glacier National Park, these reports of recent bear activity serve as a reminder to park neighbors. As bears emerge in the spring they will be attracted to any source of food including: bird feeders, dog food, and improperly secured garbage.”Safety recommendations for foot travel while in bear country tend to receive the most attention; however, there are other natural hazards that park visitors should be aware of and be prepared for when they venture outdoors. Go to the park’s web page at: http://www.nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/yoursafety.htm for details about: Bears, Water, Wildlife, Mountain Lions and Watch Your Step. “These potential hazards are not mentioned to scare people but rather to remind everyone to be prepared, be familiar with their equipment and know their personal limitations. Glacier National Park is a wonderland to explore and experience during each of its many seasons, but we want park visitors to have a safe outing,” concluded Cartwright.
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