Be Aware of Emerging Bears

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Date: March 27, 2007
Contact: Melissa Wilson, 406 888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park Superintendent Mick Holm reminds park visitors that bears are beginning to emerge from hibernation and visitors therefore need to be alert for bear activity and obey safety regulations while visiting the park.

Holm said, “Glacier National Park is home to both grizzly and black bears and visitors must act accordingly when they visit. Take precautions to avoid a bear encounter. Make your presence known by calling out or clapping at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots on the trails. Additionally, maintain a safe distance from bears and other wildlife.”

While neither bears nor tracks have yet been reported this spring, mid-March is when male bears begin to emerge from hibernation. Once they emerge, bears roam widely in search of food, and will aggressively protect their food source. Females, which tend to emerge slightly later, will also fiercely defend their cubs. All visitors should be aware for any evidence of bear activity.

Holm added, “Park visitors must store food and other odorous items inside hard-sided vehicles or in food lockers and dispose of garbage in a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. Proper food storage is essential to preventing bears from becoming habituated to human food.”

“Though bear encounters are extremely rare in Glacier, visitors can consider carrying bear pepper spray to be used in the event that a bear charges. However, it is imperative that people do not develop a false sense of security by carrying it; continue to take the precautions to avoid an encounter. Further, visitors must be familiar with the can’s operation, and the spray’s limitations,” Holm said.

According to the manufacturers, bear pepper spray should only be used at short distances (10-30 feet). Wind, cold, rain and product age may alter its effectiveness. The canisters have a safety feature, and visitors must understand how to disengage it. The spray must also be immediately available; do not store the spray inside a pack.

Holm also noted that bear pepper spray is not a repellent. “Do not apply bear pepper spray to people, tents, packs or other recreational equipment. It is only designed to be sprayed at charging or attacking bears at close range.”

Bear pepper spray is clearly labeled for use against bears and must be registered with the Environmental Protection Agency. Only brands specifically labeled for use against bears can be transported legally across the border into Canada. Personal defense sprays not designed for use on bears may be ineffective.

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.

For further information on Glacier National Park, visit the park’s Web site at or call 406-888-7800.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

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PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

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