Wildlife in Glacier National Park ~ a slow hiker's guide™


Individual Wildlife pages coming soon

Well this is a start new page with grizzly photo from Many Glacier.

Glacier National Park is world famous for its scenery, hiking trails and wildlife. Yellowstone National Park has more wildlife viewable from the roadside then Glacier Park. The pine martin photos were pure luck I had stopped to take some wildflower closeups with my telephoto lens and was sitting on the rock wall along the Going-To-The-Sun-Road when I noticed movement up the road. A pine martin was walking up the yellow line. Glacier Park has a higher concentration of grizzly bears then anywhere else in the lower 48 states. That is for the whole park, the Many Glacier area concentration of visible bears is many times greater then any other location in the park, particularly in September and October.

Most of the photos are mine those that aren't will be clearly labeled as to file source. The elk and coyote photos are mine but were taken in Yellowstone Park. I have seen both of these animals in Glacier Park but not in the abundance that occurs in Yellowstone. I haven't encountered any mountain lions in Glacier Park actually the only mountains lions I have seen in Montana were near my house when I was on my way to Many Glacier. The lions were crossing the street and basically filled it nose to tail. When the Hidden Lake Trail first opens sometimes it's possible to see wolverines on the hillside, will try and take my telephoto lens up there this summer (2013).

The gray wolf photo was taken by Glacier National Park snow survey crew working to get The Going To The Sun Road ready for it's very short summer season.

Most wildlife in Glacier National Park follow the seasons and the flowers. The area from the rocks under the Highline Trail to the last parking area before the summit usually provides the visitor with the ability to see and photograph mountain goats. With the exception of the Logan Pass, generally more wildlife can be seen on the eastern side of Glacier National Park then on the western side.

Mountain goats frequent the Hidden Lake Trail that starts behind Logan Pass Visitor Center. Though you can see goats at any point on the trail. They are most often seen at or near the overlook for Hidden Lake. The photo of mama goat and kid was taken just after the overlook.

Bighorn sheep are frequently seen near Logan Pass when the wild flowers are blooming. Bighorn sheep can also be found on most of the Many Glacier trails. This year, 2011, I finally saw all varieties of Big Horn Sheep in the Two Medicine Valley. This included my first view of a nearly newborn Big Horn Sheep. Of course I had my flower lens with me instead of my telephoto. During my 2011 I didn't see bears in the park, but had one on my porch last month, plus 4 young mountain lines crossing the road near my house. During the 2012 hiking season I saw plenty of bears but few bighorn sheep. The heavy snow, and frequent avalanches reduced the population of Glacier Parks Big Horn Sheep. There was a moose just outside of East Glacier in the ponds on the road to Two Medicine.

grey wolf Glacier National Park 4-12-12 NPS photo

The moose rising was taken on the Rockwell Falls Trail which starts just past the boat launch at Two Medicine Lake. The bear was photographed the same day in the Two Medicine area. Bears can be very active in the Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas of Glacier Park. I went back to Rockwell Falls Trail multiple times that year hoping to get more photos of the moose without any luck. The Swift Current Pass Trail in Many Glacier, particularly Bullhead Lake, is a much more reliable location for observing moose.

Montana wildlife photography

Glacier and Yellowstone are fantastic locations for Montana wildlife photography. Whether you encounter lots of wildlife is as much luck as location. However I've encountered more grizzly bears in Glacier National Park then in Yellowstone. According to park naturalists, Glacier National Park has the highest concentration of grizzly bears in the United States. A few years ago a study by Katherine Kendall of the Northern Divide Grizzly Bear Project was in Northwest Montana and included Glacier National Park. This DNA study of grizzly bears counted some 563 unique grizzlies. That's a lot of bears! Over the last eighteen years I've only seen a small fraction of them. The Washington Post on March 10, 2008 ran a front-page article on this study.

My daughters did encounter seven bears on one hike in Glacier National Park. That was the Iceberg Lake Trail in October. I hiked the same trail in October the year before and could not find any animals other than a few squirrels.

bull moose leaving pond Glacier National Park

Bull moose leaving the moose pond, Glacier National Park, June 29, 2008. When air temperature are above 60 degrees Fahrenheit moose will take to water to cool off or find some shade. When day time temperatures are hot moose activity will increase at night and decrease during the day. (Note 01)

For me the mountain goat personifies Glacier National Park.

mountain goat hidden lake Glacier National Park

During the winter it is rare to see a mountain goat, unless you're doing some mountaineering yourself, but from late spring to early fall it is difficult to be in Glacier National Park and not spot a mountain goat. Mountain goats don't really try and hide from hikers. Most other animals aren't as bold and it frequently takes a trained eye to discern an animal or bird standing still within a few feet of the trail. Hidden Lake Overlook Trail where these mountain goats were photographed is the best spot to observe or photograph them in , Glacier National Park. I prefer to photograph mountain goats frolicking on Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, than to see them licking up anti-freeze from the Logan Pass parking lot. My wildlife photography is done with a large telescopic lens using a Canon digital single lens reflex camera; it’s not a good idea to get to close to the wildlife.

mountain goat hidden lake glacier national parkmountain goat with kid, Glacier National Park

Over the years I have only photographed a few moose on the west side of Glacier National Park. Just outside the park I came too close for comfort to hitting a large bull moose next to the maze in Coram. I have photographed many more moose on the east side of Glacier National Park. The Swift Current Pass Trail in Many Glacier is a more reliable location to study and photograph moose. The rising moose photograph was taken on the Rockwell Falls Trail in Two Medicine Area of Glacier National Park. Those photographs were taken with large telescopic lens and a 2X doubler, plus a heavy tripod and a Canon digital single lens reflex camera. Moose are VERY territorial and can be quick to attack.

This Bull Moose was resting at the aptly named Bullhead Lake on the Swift Current Pass Trail in Glacier National Park. I have photographed more moose on this lake than anywhere else in Montana.

bull moose, bullhead lake Glacier National Parkmarmot Glacier National Park

Marmot at Ptarmigan Tunnel on the Belly River side.

Marmots are very fond of salt from your boots; they are large members of the squirrel family.

harlequin duck Glacier National Park © Shawn Cogginsharlequin ducks, duet in Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

Male Harlequin Ducks Glacier National Park © Shawn Coggins

The pictures above is of Harlequin Ducks photographed on McDonald Creek, in Glacier National Park, near the old horse bridge. The bridge was destroyed during the November, 2006 floods. A replacement bridge was built during the fall of 2007.
Harlequin Ducks can be found, if you're very lucky, on McDonald Creek in late spring. I haven't seen any this year, 2013 while last year I saw over a dozen male and female harlequins.

According to Montana Field Guide "In Montana, most Harlequin Ducks inhabit fast moving, low gradient, clear mountain streams. Overstory in Montana does not appear to affect habitat use: 1) in Glacier National Park, birds used primarily old-growth or mature forest (90%); and 2) most birds in streams on the Rocky Mountain Front were seen in pole-sized timber (Diamond and Finnegan 1993). Banks are most often covered with a mosaic of trees and shrubs, but the only significant positive correlation is with overhanging vegetation (Diamond and Finnegan 1993, Ashley 1994)".

Big Horn Ram Glacier National Parkbig horn ram grinnell glacier trail

Bighorn Ram Glacier National Park

The close-up photograph of the bighorn ram above was taken on Going to the Sun Road. The bighorn ram on the trail was photographed on the Grinnell Glacier Trail just before the lunch spot. There were about 25 bighorn rams about a 1/4 mile further up the trail.

bighorn lamb

Bighorn lamb, Many Glacier, Glacier National Park 2008

While hiking Logging Lake Trail I had my first encounter with a bull elk on a trail in Glacier National Park. For the record the one shown below was taken in Yellowstone, the bear cub photo is also from Yellowstone. My bear encounters on hiking trails have been very quick and I'm just not quick draw enough to get my camera out of my backpack. The one time I had my large telephoto around my neck two bears were running at me, so bear spray was my first priority.

black bear cub yellowstone bull moose rising from pond in two medicine, glacier national park

Bear cub above is a black bear. Moose photograph above with grass is the same moose as in the bottom photo.
I was returning from a canoeing trip at Kintla Lake on a fall Sunday several years ago and encountered three separate elk herds on the road before making it to Polebridge. It was the first day of hunting season and the elk herds had crossed over the North Fork River into Glacier Park.

bull elk yellowstone parkfawn kintla road

moose wet moose dreamland

The dreamland moose above was photographed on the Rockwell Falls Trail in the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park. This area is accessed through East Glacier, Montana.

Glacier National Park is bear country. Grizzly Bear!

grizzly bear paw cast