Bears Emerging from Dens in Glacier National Park

Park officials urge visitors should be prepared for sightings and encounters

By Beacon Staff
Recent bear tracks in snow on Bowman Road Photo courtesy Laura Law

Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier National Park, officials stated Friday in a press release.

Both grizzly and black bears live and travel in the park. The bears hibernate during the winter months and begin to emerge from dens when temperatures warm. The bears are hungry and looking for food, especially carcasses of winter-killed animals.

In the press release, Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow stated: “Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors should be alert for spring bear activity, and to be familiar with responsible actions to maintain human and bear safety.”

Recreational visitors to the park should travel in groups and make loud noise by calling out and/or clapping their hands at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots and curves on trails. These actions will help avoid surprise encounters. Do not approach any wildlife; instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.  Visitors should maintain a minimum distance of 100 yards from any bear within the park.

Visitors are also reminded to keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster. These actions help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.

Proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved. Anyone recreating in bear country is highly encouraged to have bear spray. The bear spray should be readily accessible and the user should have knowledge on how to use it. The carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges is allowed as consistent with state laws.

Glacier National Park managers agree with Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks’ statement: “If you are armed, use a firearm only as a last resort. Wounding a bear, even with a large caliber gun, can put you in far greater danger.”

“Glacier National Park is a special place and we hope that everyone has an enjoyable and safe visit,” according to Mow, who encouraged all park visitors to come prepared, including prepared for wildlife encounters and changing spring weather conditions.”

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.

For more information about bears and how to recreate safely in Glacier National Park, visit http://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm.