Page 1 of 1

Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Sat Jul 21, 2018 9:08 am
by billandkaren
We just returned a couple of weeks ago from our 25th anniversary trip to Glacier (MT), Banff, and Jasper. We had never been to any of these parks and it truly was a trip of a lifetime. We had our first ever meeting of bears on a trail in Glacier, and a subsequent conversation with a park ranger left me scratching my head, particularly as it compares to rangers in Yellowstone.

We were hiking a fairly crowded trail in the Many Glacier area returning to the parking lot when we noticed a couple of people stopped in front of us. Thinking they had spotted the young moose we saw on our way out, we continued on to join them. We then saw why they had stopped. A mother grizzly with two yearling cubs about 40 feet away were walking towards us from a side trail that joins up with the main trai. One of the men yelled, "Hey bear!" while the other held his bear spray ready. Karen pulled hers out and I had my hand on mine. The bears stopped and the mother moved slightly off the trail first to our right then to the left. I suggested backing off the trail to let her pass and started to do so when she decided to leave the trail to go around us. The cubs followed and they proceded to pass us without incident.

This took place about an eighth of a mile from the trailhead and parking lot and like I said, there were a number of people that were still out on the trail. We hurried to a nearby ranger station to report the incident. There were at least three rangers there and one young lady asked us what we wanted. We relayed the incident thinking they would send someone out on the trail immediately to make sure no one got hurt. Instead the conversation went like this.

"Are you sure they were grizzlies?"
"Yes, they were definitely grizzlies."
"Did you get pictures?"
"Yes, My wife snapped a couple quick pictures."
"Oh, good. Let me get you a website address of a researcher who wants to identify as many bears as he can."
"Maam, I don't thing you understand me. These bears were on the trail. There are people out there walking in sandals and flip flops. There are kids out there. Most of these people are not carrying bear spray. I think a ranger needs to go out there who knows what they are doing so someone doesn't get hurt."
"Well, I was out on that trail yesterday and I saw three different bears. There are a lot of bears in this area."
"Maybe that's ok for you. you know how to handle yourself, but believe me, there are people out there who are not trail savvy and will not know what to do if they confront a mother bear with two cubs."
"Well let me get you this email address and please make sure you send him your pictures."

We left just shaking our heads. We did see a different ranger hop into his truck as we were leaving so we assume he did go out to the trail.

We stopped in Yellowstone on our way back and we contrast the Glacier experience with rangers who send people back into their cars if a grizzly who is digging up roots gets within 50 yards.

Is that typical for Glacier or did we just hit a wierd ranger who wants to get pictures to help out her boyfriend???

Re: Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Wed Aug 08, 2018 6:06 am
by yellvet
billandkaren, I'm happy that you had a wonderful trip to Glacier but you may want to consider contacting the Glacier Super or Chief Ranger about your grizzly bear encounter on the trail and the "no-big deal" reaction that you got from the gal at the ranger station. That was inexcusable and the Chief Ranger needs to know that. I've lived in/near bear country in MT for over 3 decades and I've hiked all over the mountains in our area. But I also know that a complacent mindset about bears or one stupid move from me or another hiker could get me or someone else killed. NW MT and, especially, Glacier NP is widely acclaimed for its high number of bears (both grizzlies and black) and for Glacier's vast hiking trail system. Because of that, I think that you'll find that a lot of people in MT, including rangers, LEO's and hiking visitors are far too complacent about the dangers associated with meeting a grizzly bear or even a black bear on a narrow path or hiking trail. The same thing happens where I live, along the north slope of the Beartooth Mountains, just NE of Slough Creek. We have a horse/hiking trail less than 7 miles from my house that goes from the trail head through the Beartooth Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness Area, up over the Beartooth Mountains and then ends up in the open meadow that's just across from Site #4 at the Slough Creek Campground. Like Glacier, the AB Wilderness Area also has a very high grizzly bear population. But over the years, Glacier has had some of the most vicious grizzly bear attacks on record. People aren't just mauled, they're savagely attacked, killed and then buried and eaten later. I have to wonder if that gal at the ranger station has ever seen the movie called the Night of the Grizzlies. It's a true story that documents the savage, unrelenting rampage of one or two Glacier NP grizzly bears that stalked and killed some young adults who were on a hiking trip in Glacier. They were sleeping in their sleeping bags under the stars but their campsite was fairly close to a Glacier NP building when the attacks took place. The movie documentary includes original film footage from the late 60's. IMO, the documentary should be required viewing for all national park hikers before they hit the trail and not just a 20-minute video. PBS-MT usually runs the movie around Christmas time, so the hiking forum members from MT may want to watch for it in December. It definitely makes ya wonder whether or not you're ready or prepared for a hike in the wild. The Glacier incident is very similar to the incident that happened at the Soda Butte Campground just a few years back when a camper was sleeping in his tent. A grizzly bear sow killed him in the tent. As I recall, Park officials said that the camper had kept a very clean camp and had left nothing outside or inside the tent that would have prompted the grizzly bear attack. In both the Glacier and Soda Butte incidents, however, the necropsy reports revealed that both grizzlies had been starving and needed food to survive. In other words, find food or die. Both attacks were totally unprovoked but both grizzlies were found and put down. If I'm not mistake the cubs from the Soda Butte incident were sent to either Zoo Montana in Billings or the Discovery Center in West Yellowstone.

Hikers AND rangers need to remember that all bears are dangerous and unpredictable, they each have their own personality but can kill or injure people under any given set of circumstances. They might be hungry, they might have a tooth ache or maybe they're just being ornery and cranky because they're having a bad fur day. Ya just don't know.

You did the right thing, guys, by going to the ranger station and reporting your grizzly bear encounter on the trail. In doing so, you may have saved the life of another hiker or the grizzly bear or kept someone else or a child from being severely hurt. To a bear, a young child could easily be interpreted as being EZ prey and a meal, especially, if the griz was hungry. Did you get the name of the gal at the ranger station who blew you off? She should re reported to the Chief Ranger, immediately. If you'd rather not get involved at this point, I'd be happy to contact the appropriate ranger for you, on your behalf. Or I can call Kerry Gunther, the bear management specialist in Yellowstone. The gal's bear researcher boy friend may be keeping track of certain Glacier grizzly bears because of some of the brutal grizzly attacks that have happened in Glacier in the past. Doesn't matter, though. The way that gal treated you was wrong, it was totally inappropriate and certainly wasn't in the best interest of Glacier or the NPS. I realize that Yellowstone and Glacier are now entering the peak bear season because bears are entering their annual life stage called hyperphasia (pigging out before their winter hibernation). But this is all the more reason why both Parks should be viewing park visitors and hikers as valuable assets for better bear management and visitor safety and not as stupid idiots or public enemies. I'm truly very sorry that you were treated so rudely. But this is a misguided mindset that has plagued many park rangers (full time and seasonal) for a number of years. And you're not the only ones, either. Been there myself, more times than I'd like to remember. That's why it's important that you talk to or write the Chief Ranger about your grizzly encounter and how you were treated at the ranger station. Yellowstone requires all visitors to report a bear sighting. So Glacier probably does, too. So why were you treated so rudely? Could it be that the gal didn't want to "waste" her valuable time filling out a bear sighting report. "Well, tough noogies, Toots! Do your job and show your Park visitors some respect."
End of conversation.........

Re: Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 2:31 pm
by billandkaren
Thanks, Yellvet, for your response. It helps me to know that my reaction was not way off. I have read accounts of the bear attacks you referred to and have a healthy respect for the bears. We always carry bear spray and try to follow proper protocol when we are hiking in bear country. I wondered if the attitude in general of the rangers in Glacier is just different than in Yellowstone, but it sounds like from what your telling me, it just depends on the ranger.

We also recognize that even if you do all the right things, there is an element of risk while hiking in bear country. We have seen tracks and scratch trees before, but it was the first time we actually saw a bear on the trail. We have discussed this and have decided that for us, it is worth the small amount of risk involved to be able to see this beautiful country and experience the awe that can only be felt in these wild places.

Sounds like you live in a beautiful area. Our primary home is in Colorado but we purchased a little fixer-upper place just over the Idaho border from West Yellowstone a couple of years ago. We have really enjoyed getting acquainted with the trails in the surrounding national forests, but recognize we are in bear country there as well.

Sorry but we did not get the name of the ranger. Maybe she was just a summer intern or something. We were concerned because there were a number of people we assume from the nearby campground who were on the trail asking about seeing the large bull moose that was further along the trail (that could have been a potential danger as well. It was huge and very lose to the trail). There were mothers with smaller children and a group of three boys that seemed to be by themselves in the 10-12 year-old range. Some of these people were not dressed for hiking and were certainly not carrying bear spray. A major part of the resonsibility lies with these people and the parents who did not recognize the risk in taking to the trail unprepared. But it is also the rangers' job to try and protect the ignorant.

Re: Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 9:40 am
by yellvet
Thought I'd mention 2more things. Since we're currently in the fire season, you may want to keep tabs on the Bacon Rind fire. It's not all that far from West Yellowstone. Looks like there's going to be a public meeting in West Y. for residents in the area to give them the latest info on the fire.

The Derby Fire took out our family cabin in 2006 and it almost took out our home in Nye(just upstream from the cabin). The Derby was a small 5-acre fire when it started but it ultimately consumed over a quarter million acres of forest land and destroyed several private homes and outbuildings. The fire started on 8/22/06 (the date is imprinted on my memory) and wasn't under control until mid October. Right now, I think your new place should be OK . But I also know from personal experience that you can never underestimate the power, unpredictability and potential destruction of a wildfire, since a wildfire has a tendency to generate it's own weather. The good news is that regional fire fighters have been jumping on fires immediately rather than letting 'em burn ever since the Derby Fire hit our area. But I did want to give you a heads up just in case you weren't aware of the Bacon Rind Fire.

Here's the link where you can monitor the progress and status of the Bacon Rind fire: Looks like there's going to be a public meeting for West Y. residents fairly soon to update them on the status of the fire. The official Yellowstone website also has a link to all the active fires in the Park.

Lastly, I want you to know that you have an open invitation to come for a visit if you're ever in the Nye area during the summer. Just need a little notice so I can make sure that we'll be home to greet you. Safe journeys! :)

Re: Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:22 pm
by billandkaren
We appreciate the heads up regarding the Bacon Rind fire. We were unaware of it as we had to cut our stay at our Idaho place short this summer. The link will be a big help to us to keep informed. We hiked the Bacon Rind trail in June and really enjoyed the beauty along with seeing a huge grizzly track and a wolf track. I realize that fire plays an important role, but I selfishly wish for it to be in places I don't frequent.

We would love to come for a visit sometime. Maybe we could hike that trail near your place. :)

Thanks again.

Bill and Karen

Re: Park Rangers attitudes towards bears in Glacier/Yellowstone

Posted: Sat Aug 11, 2018 8:49 am
by DinoRos
Everything you wrote is spot on, Yellvet. The "bad fur day" line cracked me up. lol