Glacier Park: Rising Sun limited to hard-sided camping after bear rips into tent

Earlier this summer, the Many Glacier Campground was limited to hard-sided campers after a grizzly bear invaded a campsite and ate fresh fish that had just been placed on a picnic table. (Glacier National Park)

For the second time this summer, Glacier National Park is limiting a campground to hard-sided camping only to reduce the potential for conflicts with a bear or bears frequenting the area.

This time, a bear ripped into the side of a tent in the Rising Sun Campground, located on the park’s eastern side near St. Mary.

The incident occurred last Friday afternoon, according to Monday afternoon’s announcement. The animal pulled out bedding and pillows. There was no food or any other bear attractant in the tent. Hair samples in the tent and an adult-sized scat pile in the area where the pillows were found were those of a bear.

No one was in the tent or at the campsite, and there were no witnesses to the incident.

Thus Monday afternoon’s decision: “Effective immediately, Rising Sun Campground along the Going-to-the-Sun Road on the east side of the park will temporarily be limited to hard-sided camping. This means that tents and soft-sided campers will not be permitted until further notice. Camper vehicles such as VW buses and pickup trucks with small canvas pop-ups are allowed as long as the canvas is not exposed.”

Bears have been passing through and above the Rising Sun Campground for the past two weeks. Berries are abundant and the cliffs above the campground are a well-documented wildlife corridor.

Because there were no witnesses, rangers cannot determine which bear or bears are responsible, park officials said Monday. So there can be no determination of whether the bear acted out of habituation, food-conditioning, or just curiosity.

Glacier spokeswoman Lauren Alley said rangers have placed a decoy tent and game camera in the campground area to monitor further activity. No attractants will be placed in the decoy tent.

Alley explained the decision to limit camping: “Glacier National Park has a proactive bear management program that seeks to prevent bear/human conflicts through public education, bear-wise waste management, aggressive enforcement of food storage regulations, and application of hazing and aversive conditioning techniques to teach bears to avoid humans and developed areas.”

“Visitors and residents are urged to learn more about the importance of food storage while living and recreating in bear country for bear and human safety,” she said. “Once bears have successfully obtained unnatural food from people or become accustomed to foraging in developed areas, it is very difficult to change their behavior to return to wild areas and natural food sources. Once bears receive a human food reward, they often become a safety hazard, becoming increasingly aggressive seeking out and obtaining subsequent food rewards.”

Earlier this summer, Many Glacier Campground was limited to hard-sided campers after a grizzly bear invaded a campsite and ate freshly caught trout that had been placed on a picnic table. After the bear didn’t return for several weeks, the campground was reopened to tents.