Sad Tale Of Oldman Lake Bear..Please Comment By May 7th Deadline!!

The Oldman Lake bear was seventeen years old when she was shot and killed by Glacier National Park Rangers last year. 

She had two cubs by her side, both were darted with tranquilizers. One bled to death from a lacerated jugular vein, the other cub was sent to the Bronx Zoo, to live out it’s life in captivity. She could have grown up to have wild cubs of her own, so Glacier lost two grizzly females. What crime did the Oldman Lake Bear commit to receive the death penalty? She was curious and tolerant of people.  That’s it. 

Named for the backcountry campground she occasionally frequented, Oldman Lake Bear was killed because she liked to sniff backpacks and drool on tents once in awhile. She never stole food or acted aggressively to anyone. 

Grizzly Bear Sighting At Old Man Lake…Click Here

Old Man Lake (This is where the Oldman sow once roamed, now she’s gone)

The saga began  in 2004 when she started hanging around the Oldman Lake campground but in truth this bear had always been easy going around people, big mistake on her part. 

Rangers hazed her several times, using aversion therapy. Strides were made and for two years she was a “good bear”, which means she was off their radar. In 2009 she resurfaced at the campground with cubs by her side and that’s when the decision was made to kill her and remove her cubs, even though she committed no crime.  She was just a curious bear. And she was right where she was supposed to be, IN THE BACK COUNTRY!!

The public reaction to her death and the death of her cub  was outrage:

From the Missoulian:

Biologist Charles Jonkel of the Great Bear Foundation in Missoula disagreed with the killings and reported numerous phone calls from concerned residents.

“The level of anger down here, oh my God, it’s unbelievable,” Jonkel said. “All kinds of people are calling me and they are mad.”

A vital breeding female was killed because she was trying to live her life in Glacier National Park and occasionally wandered around a few campsites. The park was deluged with angry letters from outraged citizens. The park took major heat for this.  Their actions were not defensible in many people’s minds, no matter how much they claimed they tried to work with the bear.   

Jonkel, who has been studying bears for 50 years, said he was confused as to why the park didn’t use other available options.

“Why didn’t they close the campground? Why didn’t they close the whole area?” Jonkel asked, adding that the bears paid for mistakes made by people who left out food and then left the park.

The park stated they did close the Oldman Lake campground and a few other campgrounds she visited. Well why didn’t they keep Oldman Lake campground closed and the other campgrounds as well?  

People questioned why park officials didn’t consider relocating the family to the Cabinet Mountains?  There had to be another option other then death?

From  2010 Revised Bear Management Plan-Glacier National Park:

 “Regional relocations will generally be preferred to enhance population levels in the greater ecosystem.
 Bears that are classified as HABITUATED may be released on site with behavior modification, or relocated within the Park (including bears captured outside of the Park) if a suitable release site, free of circumstances similar to the capture site, is available. HABITUATED bears may be relocated to other ecosystems or the Northern Continental Divide ecosystem outside of Glacier to enhance threatened populations.”
So what did the park do in response to taking the sows life and the life of her cub? They changed the bear management language  policies to make it easier to kill grizzlies.
A bear sighting will now be a bear encounter. A conditioned bear will now define a bear like Oldman Lake Bear who did nothing to harm a person, never acted aggressively or stole  food as far as anyone can tell.  Before this sad incident, Oldman would not have been considered conditioned,  just curious. Now, if a bear adopts her behavior, it wil be labeled conditioned and you know what the end game will be for that bear, the death penalty. 
And who is to blame for her nosing around campgrounds? You don’t think people encouraged her presence, especially when they discovered she was tolerant of them?  Have you ever experienced a “bear jam”, where cars come to a screechng halt along park roads when a  bear emerges, grizzly or black bear? People are enamoured of these animals and ultimately they are responsible for habituating or conditioning  bears. Unfortunately the bear often pays with it’s life,  for being tolerant of people.
 Here’s what the “rule changes” really mean:

Please take the time to comment on the Park’s “rule changes”  Park rangers don’t need more leeway to kill grizzlies because that’s what the language change is all about. I believe they changed the rules to cover their actions and now other bears may be punished because of this. With budget cuts,  non-lethal aversion actions, to dissuade bears, will be a less likely option. The park rangers were right to work with this bear, using aversion techniques. Where they went wrong was killing the sow,  instead of exploring all availble options.  

Will we be seeing more misguided scenarios like this, when bears are killed for being inquisitive? Now,  if a bear looks sideways at a person it becomes a “bear encounter”, designed to be more serious then a “bear sighting”.  Will each “encounter” be added to the bear’s history? If enough of these “encounters” pile up will this send the bear down the path to being a conditioned bear and ultimately a dead bear? 

Please express your outrage by the May 7th deadline for public comment. Tell Glacier National Park you don’t like the new rule changes, which could result in getting  more bears in “trouble” and ultimately killed.  Please stand up for Oldman Lake Bear and her cub’s memory. And think about her daughter that is now in bear jail for the rest of her lfe at the Bronx zoo. They can’t speak for themselves and need our help.

For the grizzlies, For the wild ones,





 (Please Put Attn: Bear Management Plan and Guidelines Revision in Subject line)



Superintendent, Glacier National Park

Attn: Bear Management Plan and Guidelines Revision

 P.O. Box 128

 West Glacier, Montana 59936


2010 Revised Bear Management Plan-Glacier National Park: click here then click on 2010 Draft Guidelines:

(New rule changes are highlighted in red)


Interaction within close proximity between bears and humans in which the bear(s) exhibit behavior identifying awareness of human presence, (altered course, bluff charge, fled the scene, etc. but not resulting in property damage or human contact. (Fled the scene? altered course? So if a bear moves away from humans, the way it’s supposed to do, it’s a “bear encounter” not a “bear sighting”?  What is going on here? Bears are going to have to read a manual to know how to act around humans.)


Bears observed by people without the behavior by the bear indicating awareness of human presence. Comment [j1]: These definitions, adapted from DENA, were added to increase clarity. (So we’re gong to rely on tourists, who may have never seen a grizzly in their whole lives to tell rangers if it was a “bear encounter” or a “bear sighting”? Unbelievable!)


Describes bear behavior defined by any one or more of the following: has sought and obtained non-natural foods, destroyed property, displayed aggressive (non-defensive) behavior toward humans. Bears which repeatedly and closely approach people or repeatedly touch tents, backpacks or food storage containers in campsites where people are present, will be considered conditioned. Comment [j2]:Added this language to deal with bears that exhibit unacceptable behaviors.  (Clearly added to describe Oldman Lake female)


Refers to a continuum of bear behaviors including one or more of the following circumstances: is tolerant of human presence, has become accustomed to frequenting developed areas, backcountry campgrounds, trails or roadsides, but has retained its natural foraging behavior. Comment [j3]:Inserted concept of tolerance and deleted reference to overly familiar.


Any action taken by management due to bear activity that directly affects the bear and/or the public. This includes, but is not limited to, trail postings, trail closures, area closures, campground closures, bear relocations and bear removals. Comment [j4]: Added ‘area closures’ as a management action.


Condition where a bear displays behavior consistent with what is found or expected in a free ranging natural  population of bears without exhibiting “conditioned” or “habituated” characteristics. Comment [j5]: Deleted the comment “overly familiar with humans”. (*Very subjective, open to interpretation, slippery slope)


Park defends actions, budget cuts make future cloudy for problem bears

Park Officials Questioned Over Decision to Remove Glacier Grizzlies

Park Tanger Barry Wollenzien sprays a grizzly bear down with water to keep the cub cool before being transported out of Glacier National Park. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

By Molly Priddy, 08-04-09



Glacier Proposes Rewrite Of Grizzly Rules

By Associated Press 4-27-10

West Glacier – Glacier National Park administrators wants to make it easier to take action against problem grizzly bears following last year’s shooting of a a popular but trouble-making bear. Under a proposal open to the public comment through May 7, the park would lower the bar to list a bear as “conditioned” –a designation that can trigger hazing or killing the bear.

Last August, park rangers shot a female grizzly — and inadvertently killed one of her cubs –after the old sow grew increasingly bold around humans over more then a decade.

The new rules wold list a bear as conditioned if the animal approaches people or repeatedly touches their tent, backpacks or food containers.  Previously bears had to steal food, destroy property or display aggressive behavior toward people.

 *blue notes mine

Posted in: grizzly bear, Brown bears

Tags: Old Man Lake Bear, grizzly sow, questionable bear management, grizzly cub dies, Glacier National Park







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18 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This was such a tragedy! We are guests in their homes (wildnerness areas) If they are so worried about “potential” human encounters then they need to fence in the campgrounds and leave the wildlife alone.

    The Craighead brothers, while doing a study years ago, realized that most grizzlies have a buffer zone and when humans get within a certain distance, they will normally flee. This bear was obviously comfortable around humans (just like the mule deer that come to my yard) and 17 years (with no negative encounters) is certainly enough time to realize, she wasn’t a threat, just curious, as we are about them.
    So sad…..


    • Hi Nancy,
      It was such a tragedy. I love the great bear and it was 3x more egregious because each bear met a terrible fate, two dead, one in bear jail. The little female, sent to the Bronx zoo could have one day had her own wild cubs.

      I just hope everyone writes to Glacier and expresses their opinion!! They need to know the rule changes are just going to get more bears killed. Of course that was the point of changing the rules in the first place.



  2. I agree with you Nancy that, indeed, we are the guests when we venture out into the wilderness and go into their world.When I was a young girl and after we were done at the campsite,we were told by my father that we had to clean up after ourseleves and make it look as clean as we found it or even better.It is a tragedy.


    • Hi Rita,
      It is a tragedy but if enough people write in and pressure them maybe they will drop some of the rule chnages. I know it’s a long shot but in the end the Park doesn’t want negative publicity attached to their image so they might cave to pressure from the public. We’ll see but if enough people speak out about before the May 7 deadline, it could make a difference.



  3. I sent an email this morning to the Glacier Park website. I had to hit submit a couple of times (kept getting error up) but it finally went thru.

    Hope everyone can make the time to let them know this should never have happened. 17 years of non-violent behavior. Just maybe, she decided to come show her babies off to humans that never caused HER any harm other than having to haze her off a couple of times when she got to curious.


    • Thank you Nancy for taking the time to write to them. I just found the link on the rules revision page where you can comment directly. But I think either way they will get the comments. I can’t imagine what this sow must have thought when they shot her for godsakes, she was seventeen years old and they just decided she was a threat? How absolutely awful. To live her whole life in Glacier, a place of such incredible beauty and then to die at the hands of Park Rangers just because she was visting a campsite with her babies. They should never have reopened that campsite or others near it. Was this all about tourist dollars trumping the Oldman Bear? I know many tourists frequent that part of the backcountry. Also there’s a large berry patch at Oldman…so why in the heck would you have a campground there?

      I found these last year comments from another blog on the Oldman sow:

      “Out here in the North Cascades they simply shut a trail down to let a Grizzly be.

      We don’t get the right to be #1 out there, we are not the one living there.

      That bear has been living there for 17 years. Humans visit for a night or a week and go home. We are the issue, not that bear.”

      “Based on the information given here, I would not kill that bear and she certainly would not be shot in a Canadian National Park, or, in a B.C. Provincial Park.

      It is seldom necessary to kill a Grizzly that is curious about, but, shows no REAL aggression towards humans and temporary closures of trails, campgrounds and other human installations in the backcountry will usually keep both bears and humans safe.

      “Habituation” in wild animals is a very complex and highly controversial issue and it is not as linear and logical as many urban recreationists appear to think it is. I have had Grizzlies hang around BCFS fire lookouts for days and so have several friends and colleagues of mine; these bears were both calm and quiet when in human presence and usually were just there to gobble berries and ground squirrels.

      I would never hesitate to instantly kill a bear that WAS truely aggressive to humans, but, I see no valid reason to slaughter one or more just because of the myths perpetrated by those with no actual experience in Grizzly country.”

      Although I disagree about instantly killing a bear that was aggressive to humans because sows can be very aggressive when defending their cubs and the big boars or any grizzly can be very aggressive when defending a food cache. Maybe he meant one that was attacking him…but using pepper spray is far more effective then guns against grizzlies…that’s a fact. Many a person has tried to shoot an attacking grizzly and they were found dead with their guns beside them.

      Some people get it and some don’t. Glacier Park got it terribly wrong with this bear. They destroyed the lives of three grizzlies.



  4. They destroyed not only the lives of those 3 bears Nabeki, but what they would of been able to contribute to the future generations of their kind.

    The facts surrounding this tragedy puzzle me. She and her babies were obviously on their radar and approaching a campsite (one she was very familiar with over the years) when they made the decision to TAKE HER OUT and avoid a “potentially” dangerous encounter with humans (yet none had ever happened in the past with this curious bear)

    Quoted from the article: “You may think you’re helping the bear by not reporting it, but you’re not,” Potter said. “We have got to prevent bears from becoming conditioned.”

    Also quoted from the same article: The Oldman Lake bear made strides in 2005 and 2006, Hunt said, and was “good as gold” in 2007 and 2008. It was not until 2009 that she reappeared, exhibiting the same overly familiar behavior. Without “booster” aversion treatments, Hunt said the bear would remain a hazard and she supported the park’s actions.

    A hazard to whom?

    From all accounts, she made the effort to NOT be a problem bear, other than surprising people from time to time, because she spent her time living in HER part of the “designated” wilderness areas and had no problem running across us every once in awhile.

    I can understand the greed associated with promoting parks (wilderness areas) as in visits and filling up camping spots $$ etc. what with those that want to get out and relate to nature. But, we need to realize wildlife’s right to exist in those areas, if we truely want to continue to appreciate wildlife in a natural habitat.


    • Completely agree Nancy and it gets worse. This is the beginning of an article from the Missoulian BEFORE the killed here.

      WEST GLACIER – She’s up in the Nyack Creek wilderness right now, working huckleberry hillsides with her two cubs, but this old grizzly will come back. She always comes back.

      That’s the problem. That’s why this time, when she returns, she’ll be killed.

      So they were just basically sitting around waiting for her to show up so they could kill her. That is totally cold blooded. Oh, she’s up in Nyack Creek doing what a grizzly should be doing but we’ll kill her when she shows back up. Disgusting. Why not close the campground that sits in the middle of a berry patch? What rocket scientist picked that spot for a campground anyway? They close campgrounds all the time when grizzlies are in the area. As a matter of fact in the rules change document they state this:

      Mt. Altyn/Mt. Henkel
      The south and southwest facing slopes of Mt. Altyn and Mt. Henkel, in the Many Glacier District, are known to be areas where grizzly bears congregate. They are drawn to the area to feed on seasonally available serviceberry, buffaloberry, huckleberry, wild onion, and biscuitroot. This is also an area of high visitor use where upwards of 300 people/day hike to Iceberg Lake and the Ptarmigan tunnel during the peak of the summer visitor season. Climbers also traverse these slopes to reach the summits of Mt. Altyn and Mt. Henkel.

      The juxtaposition of large numbers of people and numerous grizzly bears creates a potentially hazardous situation. Grizzly bears may be displaced from important habitat, or may become increasingly habituated to human presence, and thus are at risk of becoming food conditioned. Food conditioned grizzly bears may become a risk to human safety. To reduce this risk, all areas above the Iceberg/Ptarmigan trail east of Ptarmigan Falls, above the Many Glacier Hotel access trail between the Iceberg/Ptarmigan trail and the Hotel T, and above the Many Glacier Road east of the Hotel T and Appekuny Cr. to the Mt. Altyn/Mt. Henkel ridgeline may be closed when grizzly bears begin to congregate in the area. In this case, congregation will be defined as at least 3 different independent grizzly bears being spotted in a 24 hr period on each of 3 consecutive days between Appekuny Cr. on the east to Ptarmigan Falls on the west. Visitor Services, Interpretation, and Resource Management staff will verify sightings and use the BIMS to record these observations. The closure will be lifted when grizzly bears cease congregating in the area, i.e. when the conditions prompting closure are no longer met.

      So they’ll close Mt. Altyn/Mt. Henkel for three grizzlies but wouldn’t keep Oldman closed and the other camground she visited. Their hands are not clean in this at all. As for the contractor that agreed with the park on this…all I can say is most people don’t disagree with their boss is you want to get more work from them.



  5. In addition to writing to Glacier National Park, I would strongly urge people to write to Ken Salazar, the Secretary of the Interior. If he were doing his job in protecting all animals that live in our National Parks, the wolves, the grizzly bear, not to mention the wild mustangs that should be allowed to roam free, this wouldn’t be an issue. That is why they are called NATIONAL Parks. This is heartbreaking and did not have to happen. Sounds like the Viagra crowd from Alaska is spreading.


    • Hi SoCalWolfGal,
      I’ve lost faith in Salazar and his policies. He’s the one that delisted the Northern Rockies wolves in the first place and then sat and watched this past year as wolves were slaughtered by the hunts and WS. People have been writing to him for a year and he has done nothing but ignored us. I’m still trying to figure out how Obama could allow wolves to be delisted when he is supposed to be so concerned about the environment? Apparently it’s all an act.

      The Oldman sow saga is so heartbreaking and haunting. I hope everyone writes to the Park about their new “rules changes”.

      Lol on the Viagra crowd…yep I think I’ll agree with that.



    • Salazar cares nothing for wildlife. He is a rancher, so naturally, he will side with hunters and ranchers and what do hunters and ranchers both want? wolves dead. Let me make this clear, the elk and deer and prey animals do not belong to the hunters nor will they ever. Unlike them, wolves have to actually eat them in order to survive. Hunters will often have you think that just because they pay to kill animals, the animals belong to them. Nabeki, hunters care nothing for elk and deer. All they care about is killing them. Deer and elk are amazing animals, but one needs to operate on reality and not emotion like the hunters are doing. Reality tells us that wolves have no choice, but to eat elk and deer and it amazes me how hunters can fault them for doing so. It also amazes me how hunters think they are entitled to killing deer and elk before the wolves. All of those wolves that are killed by these cowards, that is one less wolf that people may see in the wild. I would love to see these tough guys with their smiles and grins when standing over a wolf they just killed to get in a locked cage with wild wolves with no guns, I would love to see who the true apex predator is.


      • You described the situation perfectly Jon. They believe in dominion over animals. There is no empathy only self centered me, me, me. They actually believe the deer and elk belong to them, as you said but big wake up call for them, they don’t. Their sense of entitlement comes from the policies of the state game agencies, who control our wildlife. No doubt the majority of people that run these agencies are hunters themselves. What a blatant conflict of interest. Especially since the hunting license fees that flow into state coffers contribute to paying the same people’s salaries. It’s all rigged against the animals and wildlife watchers like you and me. I’ve already noticed there are fewer wolves on the landscape. I barely see them anymore. I did see wolf scat and tracks last week but it was at least a week old. Every wolf they slaughter for agribusiness is one less wolf we will have the chance to view in the wild.

        On another note, I posted a quote from an interview Ed Bangs gave to Nova in 2000. His attitude toward wolves was very different then it is today.

        He said:
        “Wolves are the parents, the mothers, the fathers, the brothers and sisters that we always hoped we could be. I mean there’s extreme loyalty among family members, it’s everything to them.”

        This is coming from the USFWS Wolf Recovery Coordinator. And yet I have received comments from wolf haters thinking I made that up. They can’t believe an official of the USFWS would make that statement. It’s really so sad to be that closed minded. It’s also very sad how much Ed Bangs has changed his opinion about wolves over the last decade. If you read that Nova interview and then read what he says today, it’s almost like two different people are talking.



      • Nabeki, Ed Bangs is a flip flopper. He will say something good about wolves and than another time will say something negative about them. He said wolves create more problems than they solve. How idiotic to make a comment like that. Wolves are animals. They care nothing about problems. Bangs is stupid for making a comment like that. No one with any common sense can blame wolves for killing other animals, that is what they were put on earth to do and still some people fault them for that. Makes no logical sense at all to me. One must remember that all of these wolf coordinators like Bangs and Simes in Montana or whatever you want to call them are responsible for the killing of many wolves.


      • I agree on Bangs Jon but the point I was making is at one time he seemed to actually care. The comments you refer to are the ones he’s made over the last few years but if you read the NOVA interview from ten years ago he was speaking a different tune. It’s ridiculous that he is still in charge of “wolf recovery” if this is the way he feels about wolves now. But then you have to look at someone like Doug Smith. He is the wolf biologist that carried the wolves on his back into Yellowstone in 1995 and has worked to restore their numbers in the park. He came out last year in support of wolf hunts and said something like it’s best to hunt them late in the winter when their pelts are thicker? What? Doesn’t he realize the anti-wolf crowd hangs on every negative word? I was really disappointed in him, the same with Mech. Although I don’t think Mech has a clue about the “wolf politics’ that rule in the Northern Rockies. He’s from Minnestota where wolf hunting was never really practiced. Totally different mind set.

        Anyway I guess it’s up to us now to carry the torch for wolves. It’s up to individuals now, each and every one of us to work for wolves, so one day they can live without persecution. I don’t know how long it will take but I’m in it for the long haul.



  6. I’ve written Salazar a couple of times and don’t even get a generic acknowledgement back that he even received the email. Making bad decisions, kissing butts, patting backs and hanging on to well paying jobs seems to be what the representation in Washington is all about anymore.


    • Hi Nancy,
      I agree on Salazar, he could care less about wolves. The Dept of the Interior has abandoned gray wolves in the Northern Rockies. It’s up to us to speak out for them. We’ll get no help from them.



  7. So, they pretty much changed it all to justify the death of the bear? I’m starting to doubt about their “managing” techniches…
    Wow, this is pure idioticity.


    • Yes, grizzlies are subject to the same persecution as wolves. At the moment they are still protected but I predict they are going to try and delist grizzlies in the Northern Rockies in the next few years. Also the SSS crowd kills quite a few of them and they are killed because of human stupidity, as the Oldman Lake bear was killed. Really sad.



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