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Thu., March 24, 2011, 11:07 a.m.

First bears emerge from dens at Glacier Park

Black bears emerging from dens eat green grass to kick-start digestion. (File Associated Press)
Black bears emerging from dens eat green grass to kick-start digestion. (File Associated Press)

NATIONAL PARKS -- Bear tracks in the snow this week alerted Glacier National Park officials that bears are emerging from hibernation and venturing out looking for food.

That means it's time for a refresher on hiking and traveling in bear country.

Read on for tips on avoiding bear encounters and links to other details, such as using bear spray.

  • Hikers are safest when they travel in groups and avoiding surprise encounters by making loud noise by calling out and/or clapping their hands at frequent intervals, especially near streams and at blind spots and curves on trails.
  • Keep food, garbage and other attractants stored in hard-sided vehicles or bear-proof food storage boxes when not in use. Garbage must be deposited into a bear-resistant trash can or dumpster.

These rules help keep bears from becoming conditioned to human food, and help keep park visitors and their personal property safe.

  • Park officials highly recommend that hikers carry bear spray handy on their pack straps. While recent laws changes have made firearms legal to carry in the parks, research has proved that bear spray is by far the most effective deterrent a person can employ in a surprise encounter.

According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffered injury about 50 percent of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries.

  •  Do not approach any wildlife. Instead, use binoculars, telescopes, or telephoto lenses to get closer looks.

ON THE WEB:  links of interest

•Glacier National Park, Bear Information Page:

•U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Tips for Living and Recreating in Grizzly Bear Country:

•Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Encountering a Bear:

•Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Bear spray

•Center for Wildlife Information

•Glacier National Park, Bears, Water, Wildlife, Mountain Lions and Watch Your Step.

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Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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