‘Night of the grizzlies’: Then and now

Print Article

We’ve come a long way since the tragic events of the so-called “night of the grizzlies” shook our community 50 years ago.

Feeding wildlife — even bears — was commonplace at Glacier National Park in the late 1960s. And while technically against regulations at the time, garbage was regularly dumped at park lodges and campsites, often with the intent of luring wildlife to these areas. Tourists reveled in the spectacle and would flock to watch bears feed on garbage in the evening. In some locations in Glacier, bleachers were even erected to cater to the crowds.

Today, this all seems unbelievable, even crazy, given what we know about wildlife behavior, and more specifically, the danger food-conditioned bears present to hikers and campers.

But everything about that era changed after the night of Aug. 13, 1967. Two young women, Michele Koons and Julie Helgeson, were sadly killed in separate grizzly bear maulings at two different campsites in Glacier. Almost overnight, national parks nationwide drew a sharp line between humans and bears.

At Glacier, rangers were ordered to clean up garbage dumping areas, campers began hanging caches of food away from campsites, and the days of feeding grizzlies for entertainment were over. A permit program was also established to limit the number of campers at backcountry sites.

We learned from the “night of the grizzlies,” and many of the same policies born from the tragedy form the foundation of our parks’ wildlife management plans today.

As we take time this week to remember that fateful night in 1967, we can take some solace in knowing that the two lives lost weren’t for naught.

Michele Koons’ sister Teri Culpepper said it best when reflecting on the tragedy during a recent trip back to Glacier.

“Out of the tragic circumstances of her (and Julie’s) death have come changes for good that will benefit humans and wildlife for years to come.”

Print Article

Read More Editorial

Your vote matters — make it count

October 18, 2017 at 8:28 am | Daily Inter Lake City government plays a vibrant role in our everyday daily lives. Maybe it’s a new roundabout impeding your route to work, a spike in your water bill, or a big subdivision that just popped up acros...

Comments

Read More

Drug court makes sense for Flathead

October 15, 2017 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake As Flathead Valley law-enforcement agencies battle an increase in the use of meth, heroin and prescription medicines, it’s encouraging to hear judicial officials and law-enforcement leaders talking s...

Comments

Read More

Bump-stock ban isn’t gun control

October 13, 2017 at 11:24 am | Daily Inter Lake Most of us, like most of you, had never heard of a bump stock until a few weeks ago when the Las Vegas massacre proved their deadly punch. But once becoming aware of them, it was a quick and easy d...

Comments

Read More

EDITORIAL: Don’t make hasty decision on county jail site

October 08, 2017 at 5:00 am | Daily Inter Lake It’s more or less a foregone conclusion that Flathead County likely will have to find a site to build a new adult detention center that’s big enough to hold the county’s prison population well into t...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 755-7000
727 East Idaho
Kalispell, MT 59901

©2017 Daily Inter Lake Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X