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 Glacier National Park

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Artwork by Cynthia Armstrong

Identifying Bears in Glacier

Glacier is home to both Grizzly and Black
Bear.  Grizzlies are larger (can weigh up
to 1400 lbs), typically more aggressive, and
have a hump of heavy muscle over the
shoulder (see illustration).

  Glacier National Park provides a wonderful opportunity to view animals in their natural setting. Along with this opportunity comes a special obligation for the visitor. With just a little planning and forethought, hikers can also help ensure the survival of a protected threatened species.

Donít Surprise Bears!
Bears will usually move out of the way if they hear people approaching, so make noise. Most bells are not loud enough. Calling out or clapping hands loudly at regular intervals are better ways to make your presence known. Hiking quietly endangers you, the bear, and other hikers.

When bears charge hikers, the trail may be temporarily closed for public safety. While the trail remains closed, other visitors miss the opportunity to enjoy it. A bear constantly surprised by people may become habituated to close human contact and less likely to avoid people. This sets up a dangerous situation for both visitors and bears.

Donít Make Assumptions!
You canít predict when and where bears might be encountered along a trail. People often assume they donít have to make noise while hiking on a well-used trail. Some of the most frequently used trails in the park are surrounded by excellent bear habitat. People have been charged and injured by bears fleeing from silent hikers who unwittingly surprised bears along the trail. Even if other hikers haven't recently seen bears along a trail section recently, donít assume there are no bears present.

Donít assume a bearís hearing is any better than your own. Some trail conditions make it hard for bears to see, hear, or smell approaching hikers. Be particularly careful by streams, against the wind, or in dense vegetation. A blind corner or a rise in the trail also requires special attention.

Keep children close by. If possible, hike in groups and avoid hiking early in the morning, late in the day, or after dark. Do not hike alone.

Inform Yourself About Bears
Park staff can help you identify signs of bear activity such as tracks, torn-up logs, diggings, trampled vegetation, droppings, and overturned rocks. Bears spend a lot of time eating, so avoid hiking in obvious feeding areas like berry patches, cow parsnip thickets, or fields of glacier lilies.

Don't Approach Bears!
Never intentionally get close to a bear! Individual bears have their own personal space requirements which vary depending on their mood. Each will react differently and their behavior canít be predicted. All bears are dangerous and should be respected equally.


  Images and some text courtesy of National Park Service.




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