For Glacier hikers, a charging grizzly gives a lasting lesson

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A grizzly bear feeds on huckleberries in Glacier National Park in this file photo.

A Kalispell man and his two sons found out just how fast a grizzly bear can run during a recent trek in Glacier National Park.

Mark Iavicoli and his sons, Nick, 21, and Vince, 12, were hiking the Highline Trail recently on a three-day vacation in the Park en route to Many Glacier via Swiftcurrent Pass.

They were nearing Granite Park Chalet when they saw a sow grizzly and her cub in the distance not too far from the trail, about 300 yards or so. They decided to wait as the sow traversed back and forth across the rocky slopes near the trail.

The bear came over a knob of rock about 100 yards away and the three started to back up. The bear really didn’t pay attention to them and went back up the hillside, about 200 yards away.

They figured they were safe when the grizzly made her move.

“She just started charging down the hill. Full speed galloping right toward us,” Iavicoli said.

By then two other people had come up behind the three men and they backed up in a hurry, scrambling to get on top of a big rock, which, they figured, might offer at least a little bit of protection. They also had bear spray and were ready to use it.

The bear came straight at them.

“I really thought we were going to have to spray her,” Iavicoli said.

The bear charged within 30 feet and then revealed her fury — she grabbed a marmot that they hadn’t seen in front of them in her mouth and “rag dolled it” he said. A marmot is a large, common rodent that lives in the high country of Glacier. It’s the size of a woodchuck and a tasty meal for a hungry bear.

The cub, who was tagging along beside the sow then grabbed the marmot out of mom’s mouth and whipped it around as well.

The two bears gave them a look and then hustled up slope with the marmot and eventually, out of sight.

“I could smell them they were so close,” Iavicoli said.

The three went on with their hike no worse for the wear, but with a firm grasp of just how big and fast and grizzly bear is. Grizzlies aren’t supposed to see all that well, but this bear obviously eyed the marmot from a long ways away.

“When she jumped and got the marmot you could see how incredibly powerful she was,” he said.

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