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50 years ago, fatal grizzly attacks in Montana changed human-wildlife interactions

Karin Brulliard: ‘Glacier National Park, nearly 1,600 square miles of stunning peaks and valleys in northwest Montana, had recorded no grizzly-caused human fatalities since it was established in 1910. Then, on one night in 1967, two bears in spots several miles apart killed two campers. Both victims were 19-year-old women. Those attacks, which took place 50 years ago this summer, set off an immediate quest at Glacier to understand how a tragedy of such infinitesimal odds could have happened… Theories about the attacks’ cause swirled in the aftermath… But soon it became clear that the problem was far more mundane: human food and garbage… The event marked a turning point in relations between North Americans and the continent’s largest predators , revolutionizing how public agencies deal with bears and inspiring new paths of research on grizzly behavior. The impact of the deaths still echoed in federal officials’ recent decision to remove Yellowstone-area grizzlies from the endangered species list… Glacier, a park that had recorded just 110,000 visitors between 1910 and 1920, was in the late 1960s welcoming nearly 1 million people a year, and more of them were heading into the backcountry. Granite Park Chalet, a mountaintop site reachable by trail, had so many visitors in 1967 that its incinerator could not contain all their trash, and managers discarded the excess in a gully behind the facility. Soon the grizzly bears’ nightly foraging there became a tourist attraction’. SOURCE…

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