Park spokesperson Denise Germann says the new rules aim to protect wildlife and the public. The distances were added to preexisting park rules in Glacier’s 2013 Compendium, an annual document that updates the park’s rules and regulations.
An entire section of the Compendium is dedicated to public use limits and wildlife protection. The section bans the use of varmint calls and audio attractants that may attract or disturb animals and allows the park service to close off areas of the park to protect animals. It also bans “willfully approaching, remaining, viewing or engaging in any activity within 100 yards of bears or wolves, or within 25 yards of any other wildlife, including nesting birds; or within any distance that disturbs, displaces, or otherwise interferes with the free unimpeded movement of wildlife, or creates or contributes to a potentially hazardous condition or situation.” It includes “inadvertent, accidental, casual or surprise” encounters with wildlife.
According to Ranger Activity Branch Chief Eric Gabriel, failing to leave 25 or 100 yards between you and an animal could result in a $125 fine.
“The whole point is to protect the wildlife and the rules are simple and comparable to other national parks around the country,” Germann said. “Every situation may be different. If you’re walking on a trail and you come up on some wildlife, we hope that you would move out of the way and let them pass without harm. If they don’t move, you may need to go a different route … There is also an element of common sense.”
Both Gabriel and Germann said the distances were added to the preexisting rule to provide visitors more specifics.
But a local photographer has called the new rules “unrealistic.” In a blog post on his website, Tony Bynum argued that having visitors quickly escape a situation could teach animals to become more aggressive with humans. He also notes that some of the photos on Glacier’s website would violate the park’s own policy.
Germann said the park just wants visitors to be safe.
“By no means do we want people to not take pictures of wildlife, we just want them to do it from a safe distance,” she said.
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