Glacier National Park Staff Kills Food-Conditioned Black Bear

An adult female black bear was killed this week by Glacier National Park staff after it became conditioned to human foods.

Ellen Fike

September 03, 20213 min read

Black bear
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

An adult female black bear was killed this week by Glacier National Park staff after it became conditioned to human foods.

The bear was killed Thursday after multiple incidents of it eating human food and not showing fear of humans.

On Aug. 28, the black bear was reported moving through the Many Glacier Campground and was not readily responsive to attempts to move it out of campsites. 

On Aug. 29, the bear returned and was observed snatching apples out of an open trunk while visitors were nearby packing their vehicle. The bear then proceeded to eat the apples at the campsite, exhibiting little fear of humans.

While park staff attempted to verbally drive the bear out of the campground, the bear tried to stop at another campsite where people were preparing breakfast and after being driven out into the woods, returned half an hour later. 

On Wednesday, the adult female bear was trapped in a culvert trap near the Many Glacier housing area. 

Based on photographs and visitor reports, it is possible this could be the same bear that was approaching people and exhibiting unusual behavior near Grinnell Lake last week, resulting in closure of the Grinnell Lake trail on Aug. 25. DNA samples collected from both sites will be tested and compared to determine if the same animal was involved in both incidents. 

Many Glacier Campground recently restricted campers to hard-sided vehicles due to the presence of the bear. The campground is now open to all camper types again, including tents.

In accordance with Glacier National Park’s Bear Management Plan, and in consultation with park wildlife biologists, the bear was killed.

The bear was estimated to be around four-years old and approximately 120 pounds. A field necropsy revealed it to be in otherwise healthy condition.

Food-conditioned bears are those that have sought and obtained non-natural foods, destroyed property, or displayed aggressive, non-defensive behavior towards humans and are removed from the wild. Given this bear’s behavior and successful acquisition of human foods the decision was made to remove the animal from the park. Once a bear has become food-conditioned, hazing and aversive conditioning are unlikely to be successful in reversing this type of behavior. Food-conditioned bears are not relocated due to human safety concerns. 

Black bears are not good candidates for animal capture facilities such as zoos and animal parks due to the plentiful nature of the species throughout the United States.

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Ellen Fike