Story and photo by FITZ MAURICE
Winter hangs on for quite a while up in Montana, and 10 to 15 feet of snow can take a while to melt. The main road that takes you up to Logan Pass, the Going-To-The-Sun Road, didn’t open up until the middle of June.
As always though, Glacier National Park teemed with wildlife. While I was there, the bears were coming out of their lairs and they were very hungry. Bears lose up to half their weight while sleeping the winter away in their caves. Mother bears nurse their cubs, who stay close for warmth and protection. When it is finally warm enough, mother bear and cubs spring from their cave and they are ravenous.
The angriest animal of all is a mother bear defending her cub. She will attack if she thinks it is necessary to protect her cub. People are too often taken in by how cute bears look but they can go from cute to attack animals at a furious speed that will unnerve you.
Bears do not want to interact with humans. They prefer to get away from you before you can ever see them.
Above all, you don’t want to surprise a bear. Talking/singing, clapping your hands frequently and making loud sounds to be heard while hiking is a good idea. This way all wildlife, not only bears, hear you coming and they have time to move on before you get too close. Hiking in groups is best – there have not been any bear attacks on groups of four or more hikers.
When near any sources of water or food, be extra attentive to wildlife approaching. Bears are also attracted to your candy, sunblock, toothpaste or anything that smells sweet, so avoid carrying those items with you.
This mother bear and cub approached a little too close for comfort!
Another great idea is to wear a bell that rings continuously and warns wildlife of your approach. While visiting Glacier I also learned that if you do come in close proximity to a bear, it is important not to look the bear in the eyes, because they see that as aggression. However, it is good to talk softly to the bear, keeping the animal calm and establishing that you are not aggressive. That is, if you can pull yourself together enough to talk to the bear who is checking you out!
Some recommend that you carry a bottle of bear spray while outside in big bear areas, believing that is the most effective way to deter bear attacks. You can purchase bear spray in the Visitor Center and shops in Glacier. They suggest you wear the container on your chest or carry it in an accessible place.
Bear spray is an individual decision. Personally, I can’t see myself squirting the bear in the face accurately as it comes charging at me. What if the bear mace backfires and the spray gets into my eyes rendering me blind? I prefer to focus on avoiding any bear encounters.
The wisest thing to do is make sure you stay far away from bears, at least 100 yards, as they can suddenly charge at you. Respect bears as wild animals.
So how did I get this photo of a black bear and her cub? They came out of nowhere and ran right in front of my rental car. Always ready with my finger on the trigger of my camera, I grabbed this shot just as they went growling into the woods and beyond.
Even though I was inside a car, I didn’t kid myself that my situation was safe, and drove away slowly as soon as I could.
August 25, 2016 Celebrates the 100th Anniversary of our National Park Service !
FITZ Maurice has been on her “quest” to paint live in every national park in America. Now totally committed to help promote and protect the parks, the artist is traveling by truck and trailer; hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in search of the ultimate scene. Finally setting up with portable easel and oil paints, FITZ sets out to capture in paint the wonders that make each national park a treasure to Americans and all the people of the world.
To see her National Park Paintings visit Woods Cove Art Gallery, 1963 South Coast Hwy or visit www.nationalparkpaintings.com