GLACIER-WATERTON LAKES INTERNATIONAL PEACE PARK
More than 700 miles of trails wind through the primeval forests, alpine meadows, peaks and glacial valleys of Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. Glacier is one of the most beautiful parks in North America and is also the world's first international peace park. Canada and the US cooperatively administer Glacier and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. For wildlife, this means an unbroken ecosystem between the two parks, and the peace park is now recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.
Glacier's forests, mountains, glacial valleys and alpine lakes support over sixty species of mammals. Grizzly bears still roam here, and gray wolves returned in 1985. Other mammals include mountain goat, moose, black bear, bighorn sheep, elk, both mule and white-tailed deer, Rocky Mountain elk, lynx, wolverine, bobcat and mountain lion. Smaller mammals include the northern bog lemming, golden-mantled ground squirrel, snowshoe hare, river otter, long-tailed weasel and red-baked vole. Rarely seen are the park's martens, fishers and wolverines.
Glacier's bird list tops 260 species. Watch for raptors including both bald and golden eagles, northern goshawks, peregrine falcons, northern harriers, red-tailed hawks, Swainson's hawks, American kestrels and ospreys. You may also hear great gray owls and short-eared, boreal and northern saw-whet owls calling. Winter visitors include snowy owls and gyrfalcons.
In Glacier's lakes, check for common loons, American bitterns, harlequin ducks, eared grebes, common mergansers and blue-winged teal. In forests, watch for spruce, blue and ruffed grouse and numerous species of woodpeckers. Lovely mountain and western bluebirds and western tanagers are also park visitors.
WHERE TO SEE WILDLIFE
On the Hidden Lake Trail at Logan Pass watch for mountain goats, marmots, ptarmigan and even the occasional grizzly. If you want to feel what it's like to be a mountain goat, try hiking the steep Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet. You're likely to see both mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Mountain goats are also drawn to the Goat Lick Overlook, and you can sometimes see other herbivores - deer and elk - at this spot as well. In the autumn, watch for rutting elk in the vicinity of St. Mary's Lake.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
Late May through October. But Going to the Sun Road is likely to be closed by snow from early autumn until mid June, so you'll need to trade in your car for a pair of snowshoes or skis to wander very far into the park during the winter months.
CHALLENGES FACING GLACIER NP
The glaciers at Glacier National Park are disappearing. Using computer models, scientists at USGS forecast that if temperatures continue to rise as predicted, all glaciers in the park will melt by 2030. Even if temperatures remain steady, the park is likely to be glacier free by 2100. This creates a challenge for wildlife: as glaciers melt, stream flows and watershed temperatures change, altering the environment that wildlife have adapted to.
The west entrance to Glacier is approximately 35 miles north of Kalispell, Montana on Highway 2.
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