Saturday, May 28, 2016

"Bark Ranger" to Protect Glacier's Goats at Logan Pass

Glacier National Park, through NPS Centennial year funding from the Glacier National Park Conservancy, is implementing a pilot project to determine if a trained herding dog, "Gracie," will help to reduce human-wildlife interactions at Logan Pass this summer.

An increase in park visitation has led to an increase in human–wildlife interactions at Logan Pass in recent years. Visitor interactions with mountain goats and bighorn sheep can be dangerous for both people and wildlife. While no serious injuries have been reported at Logan Pass, habituated wildlife have caused serious injury and even death to visitors in other national parks and wild areas. Wildlife habituation can also lead to the death of the animal.

To date, park employees have used conventional hazing methods (arm-waving, shouting, use of sirens, shaking cans of rocks, and moving vehicles) to move goats and sheep out of the parking lot—but the animals tend to return within a short period of time. Because mountain goats and bighorn sheep have an innate fear of predators, however, it is expected that the adverse conditioning activities will encourage the wildlife to stay away for longer periods.

"This program represents a proactive method of wildlife management. The park is trying to provide for safe wildlife viewing by moving wildlife a safe distance from a known area of high visitor use," said Mark Biel, the dog's owner and Glacier National Park's Natural Resources Program Manager. "Through the use of a wildlife shepherding dog and educational visitor contacts, we hope to prevent adverse human–wildlife interactions."

"Gracie" is a two-year-old female border collie. Biel describes Gracie as a "medium energy dog that loves to have a job to do."

Gracie is currently being trained by the staff at the Wind River Bear Institute, in Florence, Montana, known primarily for training Karelian Bear dogs. Biel is being trained as her handler. He plans to conduct wildlife shepherding activities with Gracie at the Logan Pass parking lot and Visitor Center. She is expected to be on duty by mid-July.

Gracie will be trained not to make physical contact with wildlife. She will wear an orange vest or harness indicating that she is a wildlife service animal and will only be off-leash during the shepherding activity. Once wildlife have been moved a safe distance away from the designated area, the shepherding will stop and she will be leashed.

These activities will occur approximately 3–4 times a month, as needed. The shepherding will only occur if the wildlife shows no signs of stress from interaction with humans and vehicles. Shepherding will not occur if it is too hot, if there are other wildlife in the area, or if there is too much traffic and crowding in the parking lot.

The use of dogs to shepherd wildlife is a proven technique for safely and effectively moving wildlife away from areas of concentrated human use. In the 1990's, Glacier National Park contracted with the Wind River Bear Institute to have trainers and their Karelian bear dogs help manage habituated roadside bears. The project was successful in keeping bears away from the road for the remainder of the visitor season. Waterton Lakes National Park, in Canada, contracts with a business that uses border collies to move habituated deer out of the Waterton townsite before the deer give birth. This has greatly reduced the number of dangerous deer–human encounters. Airports across the country use trained herding dogs to prevent wildlife–aircraft collisions by keeping birds and deer away from runways.

Biel and Gracie will act as wildlife ambassadors, making visitor contacts to remind people about staying a safe distance from all wildlife as well as explaining the dangers to both people and wildlife, of approaching, touching, and feeding habituated wildlife. The Bark Ranger team will also be available to talk to schools and other groups about wildlife management and concerns about habituated wildlife.


Friday, May 27, 2016

Going-to-the-Sun Road Update for Memorial Day Weekend

The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open to vehicles as far as the Avalanche picnic area on the west side, and Jackson Glacier Overlook on the east side of the park Memorial Day weekend hikers and bikers may travel as far as conditions allow. Visitors are encouraged to exercise caution when hiking/ biking the Going-to-the-Sun road and be prepared for wintery conditions, including avalanche danger heading past Bird Woman Falls Overlook on the east side and Siyeh Bend on the west side of the park.

The recent storm poured four inches of rain on the west side of the park in 72 hours and dumped a foot of the snow on portions of the road and three feet of snow on the Garden Wall.There were several new avalanches from Big Bend to Oberlin Bend.

Today on the west side, road crews resumed operations and began removing debris and snow from the recent storm. Road crews on the east side worked on both sides of the East Tunnel and removed large boulders, rocks, and other debris as well as deep snow.

Hiker/bikers on the west side are encouraged to use the free hiker/biker shuttle that can be accessed at Lake McDonald Lodge. The shuttle runs daily from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from the Lake McDonald Lodge to Avalanche. The shuttle trailer can accommodate up to sixteen bikes.

On the west side of the park, Sprague Creek, Apgar, Bowman Lake, and Kintla Lake Campgrounds are open. On the east side of the park Two Medicine, Many Glacier, and St. Mary Campgrounds are open. Sites at all of these campgrounds are available on a first-come-first-served basis for the holiday weekend.


“A Bear Doesn’t Care,” but Yellowstone Knows You Do

Yellowstone National Park wants to increase the number of people carrying bear spray through a new engaging, celebrity-filled campaign called “A Bear Doesn’t Care.” Whether you are a hiker, backpacker, angler, photographer, wolf watcher or geyser gazer, the campaign encourages you to carry bear spray – no excuses!

“A bear doesn’t care how far you’re hiking, if you’re just fishing, or even if you work here,” says Superintendent Dan Wenk. “No matter who you are or what you are doing, you should always carry bear spray and know how to use it.”

Recent data collected by park scientists revealed that only 28 percent of visitors who enter the park’s backcountry carry bear spray. Studies show that bear spray is more than 90 percent effective in stopping an aggressive bear, in fact, it is the most effective deterrent when used in combination with our regular safety recommendations—be alert, make noise, hike in groups of three or more, and do not run if you encounter a bear.

“Yellowstone visitors care deeply about preserving bears and observing them in the wild,” says Kerry Gunther, the park’s Bear Management Specialist. “Carrying bear spray is the best way for visitors to participate in bear conservation because reducing potential conflicts protects both people and bears.”

Beginning this summer, look for posters in retail outlets, ads in magazines, and images on social media of visitors and local celebrities carrying bear spray while recreating in the park.

Local celebrities who appear in the campaign share the message that bear spray is essential for safety in bear country. Initial poster designs include alpinist Conrad Anker, artist Jennifer Lowe-Anker, and National Geographic photographer Ronan Donovan. Actor Jeff Bridges, writer Todd Wilkinson, fly fisherman Craig Mathews, and others will join the campaign in the coming months.

Visit or go here for information about bear encounters and how to use bear spray.

Bear spray demonstrations are also conducted by park employees at Yellowstone visitor centers throughout the summer months. Park staff is available to speak with local groups upon request about the history of bear attacks in the park, contributing human behaviors, how to prevent/respond to bear attacks, and bear spray use.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

Take a Tour of Glacier National Park on an Historic Red Bus

Modern day visitors to Glacier National Park can step back in time by taking a tour of the park on one of the historic Red Buses. These historic open-air buses have been taking visitors through the park since 1936, and are widely considered to be the oldest fleet of touring vehicles anywhere. While the historic Going-to-the-Sun Road travels across precipitous cliffs and hair-pin turns, the Red Buses allow visitors to soak in Glacier's magnificent scenery - instead of worrying about having to keep their cars on the road.

In this short video below, Finley-Holiday Films gives you an idea of what it's like to cruise through the park in one of these wonderful old vehicles:

In addition to cruising the Going-to-the-Sun Road, one of the best ways to see Glacier National Park is to take a hike along one of the many hiking trails that meander throughout the park. Prospective visitors may also want to note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Forest Service Gears Up for Significant 2016 Wildfire Season

Last week Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell met with Forest Service Regional Foresters to discuss preparations for anticipated significant wildland fire potential in 2016. The briefing comes as the 2016 fire season has begun with five times more acres already burned than this time last year, following 2015's record-setting fire season.

"The 2016 wildfire season is off to a worrisome start. Southern California, the Great Basin in Nevada, portions of the southwest, and even Florida and Hawaii are particularly vulnerable this year. In California, more than 40 million trees have died, becoming dry fuel for wildfire," said Vilsack. "Congress must take action now to ensure that we, and, ultimately the firefighters we ask so much of, have the resources to do the restoration and wildfire prevention work necessary to keep our forests healthy."

Forest Service Chief Tidwell underscored the Forest Service's commitment to ensuring the protection of firefighters' lives. Last year, seven members of the Forest Service firefighting team were lost in the line of duty, and 4,500 homes were damaged or destroyed. This year the Forest Service is able to mobilize 10,000 firefighters, 900 engines, 300 helicopters, 21 airtankers, 2 water scoopers and over 30 aerial supervision fixed-wing aircraft. Together with federal, state and local partners, the agency is positioned to respond wherever needed.

In recent years fire seasons are, on average, 78 days longer than they were in 1970 and, on average, the number of acres burned each year has doubled since 1980. As a result, the Forest Service's firefighting budget is regularly exhausted before the end of the wildfire season, forcing the Forest Service to abandon critical restoration and capital improvement projects in order to suppress extreme fires.

The cost of the Forest Service's wildfire suppression reached a record $243 million in a one-week period during the height of suppression activity in August 2015. With a record 52 percent of the Forest Service's budget dedicated to fire suppression activities, compared to just 16 percent in 1995, the Forest Service's firefighting budget was exhausted in 2015, forcing USDA to transfer funds away from forest restoration projects that would help reduce the risk of future fires, in order to cover the high cost of battling blazes.

Last December Vilsack told members of Congress that he will not authorize transfers from restoration and resilience funding this fire season. Instead, Vilsack has directed the Forest Service to use funds as they were intended. For example, restoration work through programs like the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program and implementation of the National Cohesive Strategy, are reducing the size and severity of wildfires. USDA, the U.S. Department of the Interior and other partners are working with at-risk communities to promote community and homeowner involvement in mitigating wildfire risk, reducing hazardous fuels and accomplishing treatments that increase forest health and resilience.

Even a so-called normal year is far worse than it used to be. On average, wildfires burn twice as much land area each year as they did 40 years ago and the threat continues to increase.

Over the last two years, $237 million has been permanently shifted from the Forest Service non-fire budget forcing the department to abandon critical restoration and capital improvement projects in order to suppress extreme fires. This loss in funds to firefighting took place before a single fire broke out in 2016.

For the first time in its 111-year history, over half of the Forest Service's 2015 budget was designated to fight wildfires, compared to just 16 percent in 1995. 2015 was the most expensive fire season in the department's history, costing more than $2.6 billion on fire alone.


Monday, May 23, 2016

Jenny Lake Renewal Project to Impact Visitors This Summer

Visitors to Grand Teton National Park this summer will notice that the Jenny Lake Renewal Project is well underway. The project, an $18 million public-private partnership between the National Park Service and Grand Teton National Park Foundation, will enhance the visitor experience in the area with improved trail conditions, restrooms, wayfinding, foot access to the lake, and interpretive information. This summer's construction will impact visitors in significant ways including limited parking, a temporary visitor center, trail re-routes and closures, and obvious construction.

Summer 2016 marks the third of four major construction seasons for the Jenny Lake Renewal Project. Most of the construction during the past two seasons was limited to trail work in the backcountry areas around Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. While that work will continue this year, construction work in the developed area around the visitor center, general store, restrooms, and boat dock will get underway this summer.

Visitors will notice limited parking in the South Jenny Lake parking area as approximately 20 percent of the lot's 300 spaces will be unavailable due to construction staging. To avoid peak visitation and frustration, visitors are encouraged to arrive early, before 9:00 a.m., or plan to visit late in the day, after 4:00 p.m. There will be extremely limited bus, RV, and trailer parking. Buses and RVs are encouraged to unload and pick up passengers and park elsewhere. Parking will be permitted along the South Jenny Lake access road and the Teton Park Road. Vehicles should be parked so they are out of the travel lane while minimizing disturbance to roadside vegetation. Motorists should slow down and be cognizant of pedestrians while traveling this portion of the Teton Park Road.

There will be no access to the base of Hidden Falls this summer as trail crews will restore damaged areas and create a more sustainable viewing area and access trail. Most other trails on the west shore of Jenny Lake will remain open, including Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon. Many of the trails in the vicinity of the Jenny Lake Visitor Center will be closed all summer.

All South Jenny Lake visitor services will remain open throughout the season, though access routes may be altered. Visitors should follow posted signs and maps to these areas and obey all closures. These open facilities include: Jenny Lake Boating, Jenny Lake General Store, Exum Mountain Guides, Jenny Lake Campground, Jenny Lake Ranger Station, and the multi-use pathway.

Visitors to South Jenny Lake will also notice that the visitor center and restrooms are located in temporary facilities. Interpretive rangers, information, and a Grand Teton Association bookstore will be available in a temporary visitor center beginning Friday, May 20. Vault and portable toilets, but no flush toilets, are available.

Rangers encourage prospective visitors to the Jenny Lake area to plan ahead, pack their patience, and be safe. Rangers are also happy to recommend other lakeshore hikes in the park that have equally dramatic scenery and fewer disruptions to those who may be interested. More trip planning information specific to the Jenny Lake Renewal Project can be found at


Thursday, May 19, 2016

What's Going On In Yellowstone?

Given all the stupidity that seems to be running rampant in Yellowstone National Park recently, I have to ask: what's going on?

In case you're in the dark on what I'm referring to, here's a quick rundown on just some of the incidents that I'm aware of:

* Last year at least five people were injured when they got too close to bison - at least two of them were taking "selfies" at the time of their encounters.

* Another man fell into the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone while attempting to take a picture of a sign at Grand View. He stumbled backwards over a stone barrier and fell 25 feet into the canyon, thus requiring a technical rescue.

* Several weeks ago a woman was videod while petting a bison in the park. 

* Earlier this week 4 men were caught walking on Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone. Since then it was discovered that these 4 idiots are travel bloggers who are currently touring America. Although they apologized for their stupidity on their Facebook page, they are taking a well-deserved shellacking from the public. Apparently these guys have multiple offenses - even bragging about them on their social media outlets. Fortunately it appears that Yellowstone is going to try to throw the book at them.

* Finally, in perhaps the most audacious and wholly ignorant incident to occur in a national park in a long time (at least that I've heard of), a couple of tourists placed a bison calf in their SUV because they thought it looked cold! Unfortunately, a few days later, the calf had to be euthanized because its mother and/or the herd rejected it.

For additional reading, you may want to read this person's recent experience with the so-called "bear jams" in the park.

One can only conclude that our society has lost its collective mind. You could certainly argue we've lost our common sense. There's also a strain of narcissism that's running rampant among certain segments of our population as well.

So what can we do to help stop the madness? If you're visiting the park and you see someone endangering any animals, or the park itself - report them! Take photos of the people while in action, take photos of their car and their license plate, and then call the Yellowstone Park Tip Line at 307-344-2132 (or the general park phone number at 307-344-7381), or visit the nearest ranger office.

Responsible visitors need to take a stand and stop this stupidity.