Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rethinking recreation in grizzly country

Last week a very thought provoking article by Heather Hansen was published in High Country News. In the article Heather discusses the two fatal grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone National Park last summer, and the steady rise in grizzly bear numbers and bear-human conflicts in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

In the process of concluding her article, Ms. Hansen poses this question:

"Should more trails with “high grizzly density” be off-limits to the public?"

She then writes:

"If outright closures are unacceptable, the park might consider the Parks Canada approach to mitigating bear-human conflict in seasonally-important grizzly habitat in Banff National Park. Special permits are required for hiking in certain areas, along with a minimum of four hikers per party. At least one member of the group must carry bear spray and keep it accessible at all times. Violators could pay a $25,000 fine. The parks might help by dedicating space on their website to “trail-pooling” for solo or pairs of hikers to form groups."

One other approach to consider, but not mentioned, is to offer ranger-led hikes in areas where grizzlies are known to frequent. This system seems to work well in Glacier National Park. In areas where the presence of grizzlies is especially dangerous, limit all hiking to only ranger-led hikes.

What are your thoughts? Should we as owners of our national parks be allowed to hike anywhere at anytime? Is our society becoming too risk averse? Or is it the responsibility of experts to protect the lives of both humans and bears?

To read the entire article, please click here.

Hiking in Glacier.com


  1. Very thought provoking post! I like Hansen's idea to follow Canada's lead for hiking trails in high grizzly density along with your idea, Jeff, to integrate ranger led hikes. When a bear mauls/kills a human, the bear is usually put down even if the animal was justified in its actions. I believe hiking in these fasions would decrease encouters, increase bear awareness. Cool post, Jeff. Looking forward to reading more of your blog!

  2. Abigail - Glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks!


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