Trail Runner Injured by Bear in Glacier National Park

Subscribe RSS Icon | What is RSS
Date: June 8, 2009
Contact: Amy Vanderbilt, 406 888-5838
Contact: Wade Muehlhof, 406 888-7895

WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park officials report that a jogger wasinjured Sunday morning in an encounter with a grizzly bear while running on a backcountry trail on the park’s west side.

On Sunday, June 7 Thomas Nerison, 60, of Kalispell, Mont., reported that he had been bitten by a grizzly bear at about 9:45 a.m., while he was running on the Lake McDonald Valley Trail in Lake McDonald Valley on the park’s west side.

Nerison told an investigating ranger that he was trail running northeast on the Lake McDonald Valley Trail about one to one-and-a-half miles from the Avalanche Lake trailhead when he heard what he described as the sound of a dog barking and then galloping horses coming up the trail behind him. He indicated that he was not making any noise on the trail and he did not have bear spray with him. Nerison said he had just enough time to turn around and get off the trail about a foot when he saw what he estimated to be two 250-pound grizzly bears running toward him.

Nerison said he believed the bears were running from something that had startled them and that one of the bears stopped in close proximity to him. He reported to rangers that he kicked the bear and then fell down. He said that when he fell down, the bear bit him twice as he continued to kick. Nerison said he used sticks to poke at the bear, the bear lost interest in him, moved back toward the way it had come and then went uphill and away from the trail. He stated that he then walked downhill and cross country to the Going-to-the-Sun Road where he got a ride from a visitor back to his own car at the Avalanche trailhead. He then drove himself to the Kalispell Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Room for medical treatment.

During an interview after the incident, Nerison told a ranger that he normally carries bear spray; however, he did not have bear spray with him when he encountered the bears.

Sunday afternoon, rangers closed the trail between the junction with the Avalanche Trail and the Johns Lake Trail, per the park’s bear management policies. Park rangers are investigating the incident and based on their findings, in accordance with Glacier’s Bear Management Guidelines, park managers will determine what, if any, further actions will be taken.

The park is seeking information from anyone who may have been on the McDonald Valley Trail on Sunday between 9 and 10 a.m. Please contact park headquarters at 406-888-7801, if you were on the trail or might have seen bears or dogs in the area between Johns Lake Trailhead and Avalanche Trailhead.

Running on trails and traveling alone in grizzly bear country is not recommended in Glacier. While taking a jog or a run may be good exercise, joggers and runners run the risk of surprising a bear on trails in Glacier. Trail running is discouraged as there have been an increasing number of injuries and fatalities nationwide due to runners surprising bears at close range. Park hikers, trail runners, backpackers and campers are urged to familiarize themselves with standard safety precautions to follow when in bear country. These precautions include:

·       Never travel alone
·       Never travel after dark
·       Make (loud) reoccurring noise when hiking/walking/trail running (especially near streams, brushy areas, hilltops, and blind curves)
·       Keep children close by and within sight
·       Always be aware of local surroundings
·       Keep observant and alert for evidence of bears and mountain lions and/or their activity

More information about safety in bear country is available on the park’s web site at: .

“Make no mistake, bears are active,” stated Park Superintendent Chas Cartwrigtht. “All park visitors should be alert while bicycling or simply walking and/or driving along park roads. Running along trails is discouraged because of the potential of surprising a bear. A runner alone on a trail can inadvertently startle or frighten a bear (or mountain lion), causing it to react in a defensive or aggressive manner. Females with cubs are particularly dangerous when they venture from their dens with newborns in the spring.” He added, "All visitors should keep alert for any signs of bears, make their presence known and keep a safe distance from all bears that are observed. DO NOT approach bears or mountain lions under ANY circumstances."

Park managers stress that hikers who have pepper spray should always carry it while in bear country. Cartwright noted, “Be knowledgeable about how to use bear spray and have it readily accessible and not stowed away in a pack.” Bear spray is meant to be used in the case of imminent attacks only and is not intended to be used as a repellent. It should never be sprayed on gear (hiking and/or camping equipment) or around campsites. “Under no circumstances should pepper spray create a false sense of security or serve as a substitute for standard safety precautions in bear country,” Cartwright added.

This is the first bear-related injury in Glacier since August 2005. In June 1996, a 70-year-old male visitor sustained injuries from a grizzly bear while he was hiking alone on the same trail.

Park visitors are asked to report all sightings (or signs) of bears and/or mountain lion by stopping by or calling park headquarters at 406-888-7800 to report bear and mountain lion sightings as soon as possible. 


Last updated: February 24, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

PO Box 128
West Glacier, MT 59936


(406) 888-7800

Contact Us