Glacier National Park officials closed the Avalanche Trail on Monday after tourists apparently surrounded a grizzly bear at Avalanche Lake, prompting it to swim away.
Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley said rangers have received reports of up to six separate grizzlies in the Avalanche Basin, one of the most popular hiking and picnicking areas on the west side of Glacier.
“The bears are exhibiting some signs of habituation, meaning they appear more comfortable than is natural around humans,” Alley said in a press release. “On Saturday, the park rangers received a credible report of a group of people nearly completely surrounding a grizzly bear along Avalanche Lake, causing the bear to swim out into the lake to create distance between itself and the crowd.”
Avalanche Trail will remain closed for several days while rangers assess the bears’ behavior and give them time to move to more remote areas.
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“It is exciting to see bears here at the park,” said Glacier National Park Superintendent Jeff Mow. “One of the best things people can do if they see a bear is to make sure they back up, and create 300 feet of distance. That helps reinforce natural bear behavior, and keeps both people and bears safe.”
Nearly 1,000 grizzlies live in the Rocky Mountains between Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex to the south. Adult male grizzlies may weigh more than 600 pounds, while females and yearlings are about half that size. However, all grizzlies are potentially dangerous, and females with cubs or yearlings are particularly hazardous.
Glacier visitors must keep all food, garbage and other attractants in hard-sided vehicles or bear-resistant containers when not in use. Those traveling in the backcountry are advised to carry cans of bear spray for personal protection.
For further updates on the Avalanche Lake Trail, and other trails within the park, go online to nps.gov/glac/planyourvisit/trailstatusreports.htm.