Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Montana Bears

I consider myself a friend of the bears. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the type of fella who feeds the bears or thinks they are "cute". I have the utmost respect for bears and fear them in a healthy way, but I sure do love seeing bears - be bears. Bear lovers received some promising news this week. Here in NW Montana, we have the largest population of grizzlies in the lower 48 states. In fact, a new study just confirmed that our local area grizzly count is a minimum of 545 and Glacier National Park has the largest number.

A DNA project led by the U.S. Geological Survey and supported by other federal, state and tribal agencies over a 12 week period in 2004, collected 34,000 hair samples across almost eight million acres stretching from the Canadian border to state Highway 200 on the NCDE's southern border and from U.S. Highway 89 on the eastern edge to U.S. Highway 93 in the west. Advances in genetic technology were used to estimate population size. The hairs were caught on barbed wire at 2,500 "hair corrals" put up as part of the study. Bears investigated because of scent placed at the corrals. Read the whole story...

We live among bears. For most of the year I have to keep my trash bins behind an electric fence to keep the bears at bay. If my battery dies, I'll find my garbage scattered over two acres. I've seen bears in my yard and even came face to face with one two years ago when I surprised him while dining on the overflow of a bird feeder in my front yard. I don't know who was more surprised, me or the bear. You can bet that when my Great Pyrenees begins to howl and acts agitated, there is probably a bear in the vivinity. Our Pyr is the best bear alarm one could have.

Part of the enchantment of the Flathead Valley is being so close to such an impressive creature as a grizzly or black bear. If you plan on visiting Glacier National Park or Flathead Lake areas - bring plenty of film and some pepper spray. But mostly, bring your childhood wonder...
BTW, that picture above was taken in Glacier National Park by Cristal Jones, a reporter for the Hungry Horse News.

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