Glacier Griz Aversive Conditioning almost done
Area trails expected to open September 18; campgrounds to remain closed
September 10, 2005
Glacier National Park officials announced that the aversive conditioning of three grizzlies (a female and her two yearling cubs) that has been ongoing over the past month in the areas of Morning Star and Oldman Lakes will continue through September 17. On September 18, the park expects to open the area backcountry trails which had been closed for the management action. However, the Morning Star and Oldman Lakes campgrounds will remain closed through the fall.
The trails set to open on September 18 include: the Pitamakan Pass Trail from the Dry Fork junction to the junction with Cut Bank Pass; and the Cut Bank Valley Trail from the Triple Divide junction to Pitamakan Pass.
The park has focused the aversive conditioning on the sow grizzly with the expectation that she will instill human avoidance habits in her yearling cubs. The conditioning began in August, and for several days in the early stages of the conditioning, the park utilized Karelian Bears Dogs. For later phases, the park has used other forms of conditioning, namely, loud shouts and cracker rounds.
While the grizzlies have shown no evidence of food-conditioning nor aggressiveness, their human conditioning and curiosity at the campgrounds remains of greatest concern. This concern is what prompts park management to keep the area campgrounds closed through the fall. Once the bears go into hibernation, a determination will be made as to the campgrounds’ status.
Over the next week, the park will complete a final round of intensive aversive conditioning. Once the trails are open, it is expected that the bears will retreat when they smell or hear hikers. Therefore, hikers to this area should take the same precautions as they do whenever they enter bear country- don’t travel alone and make one’s presence known.
Later this month, the park will conduct a peer review of the management of these grizzlies. Bear management specialists from Glacier, other national parks, and other agencies involved in bear management will review the lessons learned in this case. These lessons will help shape future management decisions involving other human-conditioned bears.