Mar 24, 2011 1:36 PM by Glacier National Park

Bears emerging from hibernation at Glacier National Park

Recent observations of bear tracks in the snow indicate bears are beginning to emerge from hibernation and venturing out looking for food in and around Glacier National Park.

Park Superintendent Chas Cartwright remarked, "Bear tracks in the snow are a good reminder that Glacier National Park is bear country and park visitors need to be alert for bear activity and to be familiar with and comply with safety regulations."

Recreational visitors 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 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.

Cartwright added, "One of the reasons people visit the park is to experience a vast wild land, capable of supporting a healthy population of both black and grizzly bears. While here park visitors are encouraged to carry, and know how to properly use, bear spray. We want everyone to have a safe experience while enjoying the park."

Cartwright noted that no single deterrent is 100% effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, 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.

Federal law allows the carrying of firearms within national parks and wildlife refuges consistent with state laws. Glacier 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."

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50 percent of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.