Glacier National Park officials say rangers mortally wounded a black bear using a rubber projectile in an effort to haze the animal away from the Many Glacier Campground and were then forced to euthanize it.
Rangers initially responded around 4:45 p.m. on Aug. 5 to a report of a black bear in the Many Glacier Campground. The campground was full and numerous hikers were returning to their vehicles in a nearby parking lot. An interpretive spotting scope program also was underway nearby.
To encourage the bear to leave the area, rangers attempted to haze the bear by voice, but it remained in the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and campground area. After voice hazing was ineffective, a ranger fired one rubber projectile hazing round, which inadvertently pierced the bear’s abdomen.
Rangers and wildlife biologists determined that the bear suffered a mortal injury. After removing people from nearby campsites, rangers fired a second shot from a shotgun to euthanize the bear.
Bears have been routinely frequenting the Many Glacier and Swiftcurrent area throughout the summer. Many Glacier Campground prohibited soft-sided tent camping for a period of time in June because of bear activity.
Rangers employ a technique called hazing — which may include yelling, clapping, using horns, or firing bean bag rounds or rubber projectile rounds — in an effort to push bears out of developed places and into areas where natural behavior and foraging can occur. The park uses hazing as part of its proactive Bear Management Plan to encourage bears to stay away from developed areas where human food rewards are likely to occur.
Once bears begin to frequent campgrounds, parking lots, and other visitor areas, the likelihood of habituation and food conditioning rises dramatically. Habituated or conditioned bears may seek and obtain non-natural foods, destroy property or display aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans.
To discourage conditioning and habituation, the park hazes dozens of bears each year near or within developed areas.
On Aug. 5, for example, park rangers responded to seven separate bear incidents in Many Glacier alone. Hazing mortalities remain uncommon, but do occur occasionally.
In the last 15 years, the park estimates four bears have died as a result of hazing activities, according to officials.
The park will review the incident and seek to identify any training or other changes needed to improve the program.
In an unrelated Aug. 2 incident in the Cabinet Mountains south of Troy, two backpackers from Sanders County reported shooting an adult female grizzly bear in self-defense on a forested trail near Dad Peak in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. The backpackers said it was a surprise encounter along a section of trail with huckleberry bushes.
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are investigating the incident, and remind people recreating in bear country to “Be Bear Aware” and follow precautionary steps to prevent conflicts, including making noise, especially in areas with berry patches or other natural food sources.