Bark Ranger to Protect Glacier’s Goats

from NPS Glacier National Park

Through a Pilot Program a Herding Dog Is Being Trained To Prevent Dangerous Human-Wildlife Interactions at Logan Pass

WEST GLACIER, MT –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.

Logan Pass Visitor Center - M. R. Campbell photo
Logan Pass Visitor Center – M. R. Campbell photo

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.”

A Dog Who Loves to Work

“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.

Help Glacier Park track loons, goats and weeds

from NPS Glacier National Park

Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center Opportunities
Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center Opportunities

The Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at Glacier National Park will continue its Citizen Science Program this summer, offering free research and learning opportunities for the public.

The program trains individuals to identify, observe, and record information on mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, aquatic insects, loons, and invasive plants in Glacier National Park. These species have been targeted because of their sensitivity to changes in habitat, human disturbances and, in the case of invasive plants, their threat to native biodiversity. Participants are asked to attend a one-day training session before collecting data for a project.

Common Loon Citizen Science

Gather information on the distribution and reproduction of common loons to understand more about population trends and nesting success. Glacier National Park is home to about 20% of Montana’s breeding Common Loons. Monitoring takes place May through September.  Training Date: May 22, June 18, June 26, or July 9

High Country Citizen Science

Observe mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pikas, and aquatic insects at selected sites to assist with population and distribution estimates. These species are habitat and temperature sensitive and may be affected by climate change. Monitoring takes place June through October.  Training Dates: June 12, June 19, or July 2

Invasive Plant Citizen Science
Learn to identify five targeted invasive plants and use GPS units to map their locations while hiking along trails in Glacier National Park. Monitoring takes place June through September. Interested invasive plant citizen science participants can be trained in one of two ways:
1. Complete online training session at http://www.crownscience.org/getinvolved/citizen-science/noxious-weeds.
2. Attend annual weed blitz on Tuesday, July 21. Participants will assist Glacier National Park by pulling targeted weeds.

Glacierloonhighweed

Additional training sessions for any of the programs may be scheduled based on interest.

Since 2005, the Glacier National Park Citizen Science Program has utilized trained citizen scientists to collect baseline population data on species of interest within the park. Training is provided to participants to inform them of threats to native plants and wildlife that may result from human disturbance, climate change, and invasive species. Perhaps most importantly, the Citizen Science Program helps create an informed group of visitors involved in active stewardship of Glacier National Park.

Please contact the Crown of the Continent Research Learning Center at 406-888-7986 to register for training or for more information, or visit http://www.crownscience.org/getinvolved/citizen-science.

This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about the park while providing a valued service. Since our parks our underfunded, help is always needed, and this program gives people a chance to get involved, get hands-on  experience and get the summer of a lifetime.

–Malcolm

SunSinger4coverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of The Sun Singer, a contemporary fantasy adventure novel set in Glacier National Park.

Campbell is a former Many Glacier Hotel bellman.

 

‘The Totally Out There Guide to Glacier National Park’ offers fun facts for teens and adults

Can you squeeze both feet onto a 2″ x 6″ piece of rock? What if that rock is 3,000 feet above a cold mountain lake?

Mountain goats, the iconic symbol of Glacier National Park, can place all four feet on a rocky pinnacle or ledge that small, and they can leap from rock to rock. The design of the mountain goats’ legs and feet makes them very good climbers.

totallyoutthereDonna Love (“The Wild Life of Elk” and “Henry The Impatient Heron”) filled “The Totally Out There Guide to Glacier National Park” (Mountain Press, 2010) and the free Arts and Activities Guide (PDF download) with facts like these. Illustrated by Joyce Mihran Turley, the book’s visually exciting art work will delight the younger members of the family. The text is written for both teens and adults.

From the Publisher:

Glacier National Park remains a unique ecosystem, one of the most unspoiled in the world, full of wonders to discover. Triple Divide Peak is the only place in the United States where water flows to three oceans west to the Pacific Ocean, east to the Atlantic, and north to the Arctic. The Big Drift, the snowdrift that forms on Logan Pass each winter, can grow to over eighty feet high and takes road crews months to clear each spring. Come discover the Crown of the Continent with The Totally Out There Guide to Glacier National Park, the first in a new book series that encourages kids and their grownups to get off the couch and get totally out there experiencing the wonders of our national parks.

Join acclaimed author Donna Love as she examines the park s twenty-five remaining active glaciers, explains the formation of the park s towering mountains, vibrant valleys, and pristine lakes, and looks at living things from beargrass to grizzly bears. You ll learn about the park s human history as well, from the arrival of the first ancient peoples to the establishment of the park in 1910 to plans for the twenty-first century and beyond. Whether you re taking a real trip or an imaginary adventure, you ll definitely enjoy the journey!

Coming Soon

Donna is working on a similar book for fans of Yellowstone National Park. Donna says on her website that “When our children were young, I found I had the ability to explain nature to them. I believe that the more you know about something, the better care you can give it, so I enjoy learning about new subjects. To learn about the subjects for each of my books, I study it until I understand it. Then I explain it. I think that’s why children, as well as adults, love my writing.”

Her approach has, I think, made the 96-page “The Totally Out There Guide to Glacier National Park” a classic. We can look forward to her Yellowstone book with high expectations.

You May Also Like: A review of Sheridan Hough’s romantic mystery “Mirror’s Fathom.”

Malcolm

BearsWhereTheyFoughtCoverMalcolm R. Campbell is the author of “Bears; Where They Fought – Life in Glacier Park’s Swiftcurrent Valley.”

Follow me on Twitter

Visit my Facebook page

Glacier’s Aspens Love Glacier’s Wolves

Healthy aspen trees are returning to Glacier National Park’s north fork after the Moose Fire of 2001 in part because of the presence of wolves.

Extensive research by conservation biologist Cristina Eisenberg suggests that wolves in the area are having a positive impact of the aspens. The relationship between predators, prey and plants is called trophic cascades.

Simply put, if there were no wolves, the park’s elk would have free access to the stands of aspen where they would eat so many buds of potential new trees that the trees would be stunted if they survived at all. When wolves are present, the elk are more circumspect, eating a little here and a little there.

Fear of wolves alone restricts some of the elk’s behavior, keeping them from “over-grazing” the forest. The presence of healthy aspens highly impacts the entire ecosystem leading to a domino-effect of positive benefits for other species even though a few of the elk may be killed by the wolves.

This is nature’s dynamic state of balance. You can learn more about trophic cascades in Eisenberg’s book “The Wolf’s Tooth.”

According to publisher IslandPress:  At their most fundamental level, trophic cascades are powerful stories about ecosystem processes—of predators and their prey, of what it takes to survive in a landscape, of the flow of nutrients. The Wolf’s Tooth is the first book to focus on the vital connection between trophic cascades and restoring biodiversity and habitats, and to do so in a way that is accessible to a diverse readership.

Congratulations to Jami Belt and her successful two-year High Country Citizen Science Project that trained 140 volunteers to help with the park’s mountain goat count. Best estimates are that there are between 1,700 and 2,300 mountain goats in the park. Avid Glacier hikers know from experience that mountain goats are not always easy to see. With persistence, you can find them–and even count them.

Malcolm

On sale on Kindle for only $3.99