Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Glacier Park Bear Situation

One week so far in West Glacier, Montana on the outskirts of Glacier National Park and the bears have already been making headlines. While I have not yet encountered any, many people that I know have. One co-worker has had 11 grizzly encounters so far this summer and others say the bears have been irritable and confrontational due to a shortage of wild huckleberries. In several of these encounters, the ornery bears were discovered in the middle of hiking trails, silently following people on their treks, only to run hurriedly away when spotted. Sounds like simple curiosity to me but is nonetheless very bizarre behavior.

I'm staying in a cabin near the Flathead River, a five minute walk through heavy brush and a few huckleberry bushes. Job duties have occasionally required me to stay late and walk home through this brush in total darkness. I've been sure to carry bear spray and a flashlight and make lots of noise but it still manages to get my heart racing. Now, just recently, a 300 pound black bear has been spotted in the area of the cabins and eating huckleberries on the nearby road, exhibiting no fear of people. Plans are to capture and relocate the bear to an area that is isolated from human use, yet rich in available foods. The good news is that the huckleberries seem to be coming out now, so perhaps these encounters will decrease.

Plans are still in place to hike the Highline Trail to Granite Park Chalet on August 12th. I had originally intended to visit Trout Lake on the 13th but that could happen sooner. While the Highline Trail receives heavy usage, Trout Lake is seldom traversed and is not a place I care to go to alone. More updates soon.

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