A game of griz and mouse in the North Fork

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  • A grizzly bear searches through a hay pile off North Fork Road near Polebridge on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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    A grizzly bear searches through a hay pile off North Fork Road near Polebridge on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • A grizzly bear searches through a hay pile off North Fork Road near Polebridge on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

  • 1

    A grizzly bear searches through a hay pile off North Fork Road near Polebridge on Sunday, Oct. 7. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

Coyotes and fox, even wolves, are well-known as mousers. But a grizzly?

That was exactly what Daily Inter Lake photographer Casey Kreider and I experienced on a recent trip to the North Fork.

Both of us had pondered hiking the Numa Ridge Trail inside Glacier National Park, but he nor I truly had the get-up-and-go without the interest of the other.

After reaching the parking area, we started up the trail that borders Bowman Lake for about a mile before curling away and back again and climbing to the lookout.

There were a few moose tracks here and there on the trail until we passed the aptly named Moose Pond. There were also a few coyote scats, several red squirrels and a small group of blue grouse along the trail.

Low clouds blocked our view of the higher peaks, but some of the views were still impressive.

Near the top, we encountered a gang of happy, youthful hikers as they made their descent.

When we reached the tower, the few people there were on their way down, so quiet enveloped the area.

The temperature was about 30 degrees, but there was no wind so the cold was tolerable while we took photos and snacked.

The lookout, which wasnít manned when we there, was built in 1933. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Some of the better views were still shielded by clouds while we were up there, but as we hiked down, the sun started to peek out and we warmed up a bit.

Once back down at the mouth of the lake, the sun was shining brightly, creating a memorable view that Bowman is known for.

A kayaking couple from Bigfork cruised into the shore as Casey and a few other shutterbugs snapped away.

We learned they had their first date 20 years ago on the lake.

After chatting for a bit, we hopped back into the Jeep and headed back through Polebridge.

In short order, we came across a small cluster of vehicles. We guessed a bear or moose was out in the meadow and it turned out to be a large griz, easily 500 pounds.

He was impressive as he rooted through a pile of cut hay for mice.

Iíve seen and been near plenty of black bears from where I grew up and lived in northcentral Pennsylvania, including a large black bear that devoured large clumps of grass, clover and trefoil as he prepared for winter. That was a big bear, probably as big or bigger than the griz we saw the other day.

But it didnít carry the same stature as this big male. Watching him through my lenses, he was impressive as his muscles rippled through his thick, brown coat with the characteristic white tips on his back and shoulders that gave him his name.

Strands of hay flew as he pawed around, grabbing what he could. Every so often, heíd flop down in the hay and heíd turn his head while he chewed on the little rodents heíd turned up.

Bears are in what is called hyperphagia. The race is on for them to put on as much weight as possible before they den for the winter.

When they are in this phase, they may gain as much as 3 pounds a day.

While we talked with others who had stopped to take in the scene, one couple said before we had arrived that a guy had jumped the fence that surrounded the pasture to get closer to the bruin.

I wondered if he was the same guy who had tempted a bison down in Yellowstone this summer. Probably not, but certainly of the same mind-set.

Fortunately for him, the bear was extremely focused on finding mice!

Casey and I both laughed at how often we see animals while driving, but less so on hikes or while fishing or boating.

But I have found that to be the case many times. Animals and birds arenít too concerned about us when we are in our vehicles. But get out for a closer look and they may become very aware of us in a hurry.

The four bears Iíve seen since moving here nearly six months ago were all in the proximity of several people or a town.

Heck, coworkers have come into the office after seeing a black bear in the parking lot behind the office, Fish and Wildlife employees have dealt with dozens of bears with the city limits of Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls or any of the smaller communities since they emerged from their winter slumber.

The one common denominator for any of these bears was the search for food. They are omnivores, meaning they will eat just about anything, as well as opportunists, so there is very little they wonít devour.

Itís good to see them when the opportunity arises because it wonít be long before they are mostly denned up, sleeping away the harshest parts of winter.

Reporter Scott Shindledecker may be reached at 406-758-4441 or sshindledecker@dailyinterlake.com

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