Want to learn about bears and wolverines?
By Moosetrack Megan

Posted: April 3, 2016

Want to get outside and learn about some of the largest and elusive carnivores in Montana? Nonprofit Glacier Institute is offering a new course this May that teaches about wolverines and bears. The course is described as:


We will leisurely bike along Going-to-the-Sun Road during the spring visitor car closure with frequent stops to view bear and wolverine spring habitat, their use of  avalanche paths and snowpack as a background for discussing their life cycles.  This section of the Continental Divide has perhaps the highest concentration of wolverines in the lower 48 states and they compete with grizzlies for the buried carcasses in the avalanche debris. With some luck, we might get to see some of these or other critters in action, hard at work to put on some calories after a long winter in Glacier.

Doug’s years of working on the Glacier wolverine study project will add the recent additions to our understandings of how wolverines thrive in Glacier’s harsh environment.   His work with MT Department of Fish and Wildlife’s biologist Tim Manley on local grizzly populations will also inform our scientific discussions of the great bear. His books about both experiences are in the recommended reading list. Dave’s long experience as Glacier’s first ever ski guide informs our study of avalanche ecology and the way that both wolverines and grizzlies interact with this important ecological event. His 38 years exploring and teaching in this area adds a wealth of information to our instruction, while Doug’s past employment as a seasonal Park technician studying Glacier’s mountain goats is directly relevant to the discussion of avalanche-buried carcasses.

Although it is unlikely that we will witness a bear or a wolverine pedaling a bicycle, both Doug and Dave agree that we will spend a day in a most spectacular part of the Park at a prime time of year without car traffic. So join us as we venture out into the midst of prime habitat to study and discuss these fascinating critters, have some fun, and get a little exercise along the way.

Meeting Time: Saturday, May 21, 2016@ 8:30

Meeting Place: Going-to-the-Sun Road gate @ Avalanche Creek. Have your bike and helmet ready to go.

Food: Please bring a sack lunch, snacks, water and maybe an apple for you teachers

Equipment: A working bicycle, helmet, sun glasses, binoculars, spotting scope if you have one and are willing, appropriate clothing for warm and cold/rainy weather. Please check the Park weather forecast to help you better prepare.

Note: In the unlikely event of snow on the road, we will walk or ski at your option.

Physical Requirements: Easy bike of up to 18 miles, 900 foot elevation gain or, if necessary, 5 mile hike/ski.

Transportation during course: Bike.     Unless snow on the road, then hike/ski at your option.

Recommended Reading:

True Griz – Doug Chadwick – University of California Press c 2003

The Kingdom: Wildlife in North America – Doug Chadwick – Sierra Club Books c 1990

The Wolverine Way – Doug Chadwick – Patagonia Books c 2010

Itinerary: After a short introduction talk in the vicinity of Avalanche gate, we will bike up the road leisurely and stop periodically at appropriate spots for viewing and discussion, especially the avalanche chutes off Cannon and Heavens. If conditions warrant, we will bike up to the Loop and perhaps a little beyond to better view the prime grizzly/wolverine habitat of the McDonald Valley and Continental Divide region. Lunch will be taken somewhere on the side of the road. Following lunch, we will enjoy the big coast down the road with more viewing discussion stops. We will return to our vehicles sometime between 3pm and 5pm.

Academic Credit: Please see our ‘2016 Academic Credit’ Link on our website to learn about OPI credit and FVCC and UM credit for our courses.

Accommodations:Depending on availability, lodging can be purchased for $32/person/night at the Glacier Institute Field Camp on a bluff overlooking the Middle Fork of the Flathead River. Facilities include bunkhouses, a community bathhouse, a classroom, a library and a kitchen. Please call the registrar at 406-755-1211 to book lodging