Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bear Awareness in Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park, MT - Last week, Team West had the opportunity to venture into the backcountry of Glacier National Park for a 5-day trip. Backcountry trips usually take an incredible amount of preparation and in Glacier one of the additional things we had to plan for was the presence of Grizzly bears. After a summer full of tales of different encounters with bears, Ursus Arctos was in the forefront of our minds. The Glacier National Park website and the Backcountry Office in the park are amazing resources for learning more about backpacking in bear country. The first line of advice is always, "Don't Surprise Bears!" The suggestion is to clap and sing and basically make a lot of raucous while you're hiking. This sounds pretty easy when you read the suggestion at your computer, but after a whole day of hiking, especially if you're gaining elevation, shouting and singing definitely becomes a chore. We recommend working on your musical repertoire before you head out!

We began our trek at the Bowman Lake trailhead and literally five minutes into the hike, what do we spot but a black bear on the shore of the lake! We had been making plenty of noise, the bear heard us and jumped into the lake, but the reality of a bear encounter was reinforced by this encounter. We were even more cautious and recalled the other bear safety tips courtesy of the National Park Service. We made plenty of noise and were especially careful (and loud) near streams, in heavy vegetation, around blind corners, and when there was a rise in the trail.

The Glacier backcountry camps are set-up with bears in mind. They come equipped with man-made food poles and have a food-preparation area that is at least 100 yards away from the closest campsite. When we first arrived at camp we hung up our food and other bear attractants (cookware, toiletries, and garbage), and set up our tent in the designated tent area.

As we continued our hike, we continued to be vigilant and kept on singing. To learn more about hiking in bear country, check out this page from Glacier National Park.

While you enjoy bear country don't forget about other wildlife! At one camp we ran into a whitetail deer that enjoyed all the salty snacks campers had left for it, like their shorts, towels, socks, and boots.

All the best,

Agata and Jason

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