WEST GLACIER, MONT. – Glacier National Park Rangers removed a food-conditioned black bear from the population on Thursday, September 17 near Lake McDonald Lodge. This action was necessary to ensure public safety.
The bear was first observed on August 31 feeding on mountain ash berries near buildings in the Lake McDonald Lodge developed area. Over the next ten days, the bear became increasingly human-habituated despite repeated attempts by park rangers to haze the bear away from the area with rubber bullets and bean bag rounds. Habituated bears are bears that have become accustomed to frequenting developed areas, backcountry campgrounds, trails or roadsides, but have retained their natural foraging behavior. They are not necessarily overly familiar with humans, but are comfortable in the presence of humans. On September 10th, after the bear was observed peering into windows at the employee dorm, park staff captured and tagged the bear, and then relocated it to a remote part of the North Fork.
On September 16th, the bear returned to the Lake McDonald area, where it obtained human food by breaking into a vehicle just north of the lodge. This bear was then determined to be a food-conditioned bear and a potential threat to human safety. Food-conditioned bears are those that have sought and obtained non-natural foods, destroyed property or displayed aggressive non-defensive behavior towards humans, and are removed from the wild. Food-conditioned bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns.
Park bear managers followed the bear from the location of the damaged vehicle to the mouth of McDonald Creek where it was then destroyed. This action is consistent with Glacier National Park's Bear Management Plan. The male bear was approximately 5 years old, was in good physical condition, and weighed 200 pounds.
Black bears are not good candidates for animal capture facilities such as zoos and animal parks due to the plentiful nature of the species throughout the United States.
At this time of year, bears are entering a phase called hyperphagia. It is a period of concentrated feeding to prepare for hibernation. There has been a shortage of berries in many areas of the park this year, leading to the potential for increased bear activity in visitor use areas. Thus it is especially important that visitors keep campgrounds and developed areas clean and free of food and trash. Regulations require that all edibles, food containers, and cookware be stored in a hard-sided vehicle or food locker when not in use, day or night. Place all trash in bear-proof containers. Do not burn waste in fire rings or leave litter around your camp. Fire rings should be free of trash before vacating a campsite.
If you see a bear along the road, please do not stop. Stopping and watching roadside bears will likely start a "bear jam" as other motorists follow your lead. "Bear jams" are hazardous to both people and bears as visibility is reduced and bears may feel threatened by the congestion. Roadside bears quickly become habituated to vehicles and people, increasing their chances of being hit by motor vehicles. Report all bear sightings to the nearest ranger.
Visitors to Glacier National Park are reminded that the park is home to black and grizzly bears. 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. Hikers are highly encouraged to hike in groups, make noise when hiking, and have bear spray accessible and know how to use it. For more information about recreating in bear country, please visit http://www.nps.gov/glac/naturescience/bears.htm.