Glacier’s Largest Carnivores
Instructors: Dave Streeter, Diane Boyd, and Toni Ruth
July 14 at 7 a.m. – July 16 at 4 p.m.
Glacier National Park is home to a full complement of large carnivores interacting, avoiding, and competing with each other on this rugged landscape. Over the course of three days, we will investigate the life histories and habitats of Glacier’s bears, wolves and mountain lions. The return of wolves to the area in the 1980s has helped shape the dynamics of both predator and prey utilizing this unique landscape. We will learn about the ecology and behavior of Glacier’s carnivores as we hike through the wilderness where these magnificent carnivores roam. Dave, Diane and Toni have decades of carnivore experience to share throughout this interactive & field-based class.
Meeting Place: Glacier Institute Field Camp.
Itinerary: (subject to change due to trail closures and weather)
Day 1: We will meet at Field Camp at 7 a.m for coffee and introductions. Dave Streeter will give a short orientation on the grizzlies and black bears of Glacier National Park. We will load up into the Glacier Institute vehicles to continue our discussions and begin our hike in bear habitat. We will hike in the Marias Pass area or alternatively Autumn Creek trail to look for signs of bears, their travel routes, and discuss how they live at this crossroads of ecosystems – east and west, and mountains to Plains. We will enjoy sack lunches in the field before continuing the remainder of the hike. We will return to Field Camp in the afternoon and dinner will be served at 6 p.m. After dinner, the group will enjoy a campfire and bear stories.
Day 2: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. Diane Boyd will then give a presentation on wolf ecology and recovery. We will load up in the Glacier Institute vehicles to continue our discussions and travel to the North Fork Valley. We will hike the trail to Hidden Meadow, discussing wolf travel routes, their tracks, and scat. Diane will share her 40 years of Glacier National Park wolf knowledge, informing us of how they’ve been successful, their diet, their young rearing behavior, their interactions with other wildlife and humans, and their habitat requirements. We will eat sack lunches in the field before continuing our hike and exploring the challenges that wolves face on a daily basis. We will load into the vehicles and return to the Glacier Institute by 4 p.m. Dinner will be served at 6 p.m. After dinner, the group will have a free evening and can participate in another campfire or take a leisurely stroll to the North Fork river.
Day 3: Breakfast will be served at 6 a.m. Toni Ruth will start the day with a presentation on mountain lion behavior, ecology, and a brief synopsis on how they interact with prey and large carnivore competitors. We will then load up into the Glacier Institute vehicles to continue our discussions in the field. We will hike the trail in towards Bowman Lake, as Toni shares information on mountain lion behavior, how they move through various landscapes, as well as the methodology in searching for their sign – scat, scrapes, and toilets. We will eat sack lunches during a Q&A in the field. During this course, Toni will share her 30 years of knowledge about mountain lions, their life history characteristics, and how they are adapted to survive in a variety of landscapes, ranging from swamps to deserts to temperate regions. Toni will also discuss their unique behaviors and uses of habitats that reduce interactions with their dominant competitors – bears and wolves. We will load into the vehicles and return to Field Camp by 4 p.m. and the course will be concluded.
Food: The following meals are included: Lunch on Day 1 through lunch on Day 3.
Accommodations: Two nights of lodging are included with the course fee. Our student cabins are basic, hostel-style cabins with 5 single beds, bedside lights, and electrical outlets. Students should be prepared to share a cabin with up to 4 other people, cabins are separated by gender. Couples may be paired up in the event there is ample space. We provide a bottom sheet for your bed as well as a pillow and pillow case, but please bring a warm sleeping bag. Be sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp for night trips to the bathroom.
Park Entrance Fees: Participants are responsible for purchasing their park entry passes prior to the course. These can be purchased online at: https://www.recreation.gov/sitepass/74280.
Equipment: You will receive a Field Camp gear list once you register. Most importantly are comfortable hiking shoes, at least 1-2 liter water bottle, backpack, rain gear, hat, and sunscreen. Weather can be varied, with extremely high winds, so please be prepared with appropriate clothing, and warm layers. Binoculars and spotting scopes are not required but will help with spotting wildlife, as well as any field guide books on mammals or tracking.
Physical Requirements: Moderate difficulty. We will be hiking on and off trail in brushy and marshy areas. Day 1 will include up to 7 miles with up to 1,100 feet of elevation change. Day 2 will include up to 4 miles of hiking and up to 300 feet of elevation change. Day 3 will involve up to 6 miles of hiking and less than 200 feet of elevation changes. We will take frequent breaks along the trail.
Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2021 Academic Credit’ link on our website to learn about OPI credits for our courses.