Grizzly bear activity prompts change

West Glacier, MT – Effective immediately, the Many Glacier Campground will temporarily be limited to hard-sided camping. This means that tents and soft-sided campers will not be permitted until further notice. Camper vehicles such as VW buses and pickup trucks with small canvas pop-ups are allowed as long as the canvas is not exposed.

A park visitor photographed the grizzly bear that visited the Many Glacier Campground on Friday, June 29, 2018. (NPS Photo)
A park visitor photographed the grizzly bear that visited the Many Glacier Campground on Friday, June 29, 2018. (NPS Photo)

On Friday morning at 10:30 am, a small grizzly bear weighing approximately 150 pounds, entered the Many Glacier Campground. It crossed a stream, entered a campsite, and compelled two campers to move away from a picnic table where they were cleaning two recently caught Brook Trout. One of the campers sprayed the bear with bear spray from a distance of 15 feet. The spray was unsuccessful in deterring the bear’s approach, and it proceeded to climb on top of the picnic table and consume the fish. It also sniffed, pawed, and bit two nearby backpacks.

Park rangers responded and used hazing techniques to encourage the bear to move out of the campground. Prior to its departure, it dug into two fire pits, sniffed picnic tables, a tent, and an RV with visitors inside.

The park is attempting to trap the grizzly bear for further management action. The bear exhibits numerous signs of food-conditioning and meets the definition of a conditioned bear in Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Guidelines. A non-conditioned bear would typically not enter a campsite with people present and resist human attempts to scare it away. Conditioned bears are usually removed from the population by being placed in zoos or euthanized.

Once bears have successfully obtained unnatural food from people or become accustomed to foraging in developed areas, it is very difficult to change their behavior to return to wild areas and natural food sources. Once they have received a human food reward, they often become a safety hazard as they become increasingly aggressive seeking out and obtaining subsequent food rewards.  In 1976, a conditioned grizzly bear dragged a camper from her tent in the Many Glacier Campground and killed her.

Glacier National Park has a proactive bear management program that seeks to prevent conditioning through public education, bear-wise waste management, aggressive enforcement of food storage regulations, and application of hazing and aversive conditioning techniques to teach bears to avoid humans and developed areas.

Visitors and residents are urged to learn more about the importance of food storage while living and recreating in bear country for bear and human safety.

More From K96 FM