Wildlife In Glacier National Park

Located in Northern Montana, Glacier National Park is home to 71 species of mammals, 276 species of birds, a mix of native and invasive species of fish, countless species of insects, and several different types of amphibians and reptiles. During your hike, there will be many opportunities to view wildlife in Glacier National Park.

The park was designated in 1910, allowing this pristine ecosystem to stay intact and relatively undisturbed for over a century. Surrounding wilderness areas and national forests also allow wide-ranging wildlife to roam freely.

  • Remember to always view wildlife from a safe and respectful distance: 75 feet for most wildlife, and 300 feet at minimum for any bear.
  • Never approach wildlife to take photos.
  • You can keep yourself and park wildlife safe by traveling in groups, making plenty of noise on the trail, and carrying bear spray and knowing how to use it.

8 fun facts about glacier wildlife

1. BEARS

Glacier is home to both grizzly and black bears. The park provides the core of one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48 states.

Fun Fact: 90% of the grizzly bear’s diet consists of grass, roots, berries, pine nuts, acorns, mushrooms, insects, and larva. Only occasionally do they prey on larger animals.

2. MOUNTAIN GOATS

Mountain goats live in the rocky cliffs at high elevations in Glacier throughout the year. They can be found in the mountains, with a dense undercoat covered by an outer layer of long hollow hairs.

Fun Fact: Mountain goats can survive in temperatures as low as -50 degrees Fahrenheit and winds of 100 mph.

3. PIKA

Pikas live in Glacier’s alpine terrain under rocks in talus slopes. They are small mammals, only about 4 inches in size. Highly sensitive to temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit, pikas are seen as a species highly susceptible to the impacts of climate change.

Fun Fact: Pikas do not hibernate or go to lower elevations in the winter. They spend the summer months gathering grasses, sedges, twigs, moss and flowers and storing them under rock enclosures. These storage piles of plant material allows them to endure the harsh climate of the alpine year-round.

4. BIGHORN SHEEP

Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep inhabit alpine meadows and grassy mountain slopes in Glacier National Park. They are agile in the alpine and can climb steep terrain, allowing them to find cover from predators.

Fun Fact: Bighorn sheep’s large horns can weigh up to 30 pounds on males.

5. MOOSE

Moose live in forested areas of Glacier and spend their time in meadows and wading in marshy areas in the summer. Their diet mostly consists of underwater vegetation and a variety of other plants.

Fun Fact: A male moose can weigh between 1,200 and 1,600 pounds.

6. WOLVERINES

Wolverines spend their time in the sub-alpine forests of Glacier and remote wilderness areas with ample spring snow cover. They are opportunistic predators and scavengers, scavenging on deer and elk and also hunting squirrels, marmots, snowshoe hares and mice.

Fun Fact: Wolverines are the largest member of the weasel family.

7. HARLEQUIN DUCKS

Harlequin ducks are specialized to fast-moving water habitats in Glacier, including McDonald Creek. Male harlequins are characterized by their whimsical blue, brown, and white coloring. They are the only North American duck species specialized to fast-moving water habitats.

Harlequins migrate to the Pacific Coast in the winter and return to Glacier in the spring, often seen diving underwater to feed on insects and mollusks.

Fun Fact: Every year, female harlequins return to the fast-moving streams of their birth to breed and raise their chicks.

8. lynx

Canada lynx are rare and elusive predators. They are adapted to hunt at higher elevations, thanks to their long legs and large paws that help them travel over deep snow. This secretive forest carnivore has been studied very little in Glacier National Park, even though the park composes a significant portion of their habitat in the northern Rockies.

Your support is funding a landmark project that documents large-scale distribution and abundance patterns of lynx within Glacier’s boundaries using remote cameras.

Fun Fact: A lynx can spot a single mouse from 250 feet away.

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FEATURED WILDLIFE: GREAT GRAY AND BOREAL OWLS

Great Gray and Boreal Owl Surveys

Great gray and boreal owls have existed in Montana before the first humans set foot here, but there is still so much to be discovered about these rare and elusive birds. These two owl species have been rarely seen in previous surveys in Montana, leaving their status still in question and listed on Montana’s list of species of greatest inventory need.

Glacier National Park plays a key role for the conservation of these birds, offering a protected habitat free from human disturbances such as hunting, logging, and development.

Fun Fact: A great gray owl’s wingspan can reach up to 60 inches long!

learn more ABOUT pARK & WILDLIFE PROJECTS HAPPENING AT GLACIER

Sources:

“Animals.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, 13 Feb. 2019, www.nps.gov/glac/learn/nature/animals.htm.