©Bert Gildart: Tonight PBS will be airing on Montana Public TV its long awaited retrospective on Night of the Grizzly. The retrospective draws on an immense number of interviews conducted over the past few years with individuals who were in some way involved with the dual tragedy which occurred August of 1967. In a single night two young women were fatally mauled in two entirely different locations in Glacier National Park. One of the maulings occurred at Granite Park Chalet, the other at Trout Lake. Peripherally, I was involved at Granite Park Chalet but at Trout Lake, I was directly involved (see link just above).
Both maulings were the direct result of habituation, a situation in which bears have lost all fear of people. Usually that results when bears have come to associate food with people and that is precisely what happened in these two cases. At Granite Park Chalet managers were placing food just outside the chalet so guests could see bears more intimately.
GLACIER’S BACKCOUNTRY LOOKED LIKE A GARBAGE DUMP
At Trout Lake, hikers were disposing of unused food and over the years the campground had come to resemble a garbage dump. In fact, subsequent to the mauling, Chief Ranger Ruben Hart and I returned to Trout Lake in a helicopter and loaded it with 17 burlap sacks full of refuse. That was just for starters. Most other campgrounds in the park had similarly deteriorated.
Since 1989 (when I became a free-lance writer) I have written a number of articles about bears and the problems that result from habituation. One of the stories appeared in Smithsonian while others have appeared in many outdoor publications. Because of our RV travels, I frequently write travel stories now for the RV industry, and this month’s issue of MotorHome Magazine allows me to merge my evolution of feelings about bears along with thoughts about Glacier National Park’s centennial.
Over the years I’ve also posted a number of blogs about bears, mostly favorable to the park’s handling of bears, though not all.
WOULD HAVE JOINED HUNTING PARTY
Subsequent to the maulings I would gladly have joined a hunting party intent on eliminating grizzly bears from Glacier. But with the massive clean up of Glacier backcountry and with the implementation of a Bear Management Plan, my feeling have changed, for I believe you are safer now in Glacier’s backcountry than you are driving to the park. Essentially, that is because bears are once again wild and are not habituated. In other words, hikers are now dealing with wild bears, and when you see one of the magnificent animals created by the eons you may understand why Glacier would be bereft should they disappear.
I’ll be watching the PBS program tonight at 8 pm certainly because they’ve included interviews with me, but more importantly, I want to see how others now feel about bears.
THIS TIME TWO YEARS AGO: