Bear hazing goes awry in Glacier

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A bear strolls through the brush in Two Dog Flats near St. Mary in Glacier National Park. (Daniel McKay/Whitefish Pilot file)

Rangers in Glacier National Park ended up euthanizing a black bear Monday in the vicinity of the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn after the animal suffered an injury from a rubber projectile hazing round.

Rangers initially responded around 4:45 p.m. to a report of a black bear in the Many Glacier Campground, according to a park service news release.

The campground was full and many hikers were returning to vehicles in the nearby parking lot; an interpretive spotting scope program also was ongoing nearby, the park said.

To encourage the bear to leave, rangers attempted to haze the animal by voice, but it stayed in the Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and campground area. After voice hazing was ineffective, a ranger fired one rubber projectile hazing round, which inadvertently pierced the bear’s abdomen. Rangers and wildlife biologists determined that the bear had suffered a mortal injury. After removing people from nearby campsites, rangers fired a second shot from a shotgun to kill the bear.

The Many Glacier and Swiftcurrent region has seen a number of bears routinely frequenting the area throughout the summer, and it is believed this bear was one of them, the park said. Many Glacier Campground prohibited soft-sided tent camping for a period of time in June because of bear activity.

Hazing – which might include yelling, clapping, the sounding of horns, and the firing of bean bag rounds and rubber projectile rounds – is a technique used to push bears out of developed places and into areas where natural behavior and foraging can occur, the park said. The park uses hazing to encourage bears to stay away from developed areas where human food rewards are likely.

Once bears begin to frequent campgrounds, parking lots and other visitor areas, the likelihood of habituation and food conditioning rises dramatically, the park said. Habituated or conditioned bears may seek and obtain non-natural foods, destroy property or display aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans, officials said.

The park said it hazes dozens of bears each year near or within developed areas. On Monday, for example, park rangers responded to seven separate bear incidents in Many Glacier alone, the park said. Hazing mortalities remain uncommon, but do occur. In the last 15 years, the park estimates four bears have died as a result of hazing activities.

The park said it will review the incident to determine whether to make changes in training or the bear management program.

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