While many parks have sadly lost significant portions of their biodiversity — which in some cases has been restored through conservation efforts — many of Glacier National Park’s native species have been allowed to continually thrive over time. The park was established relatively early, which extended protection to its native species. Plus, the park’s abundant acreage is supplemented by adjacent Canadian wilderness.
Mountain goats — not to be confused with bighorn sheep — are a symbol of Glacier National Park. They are the largest mammals found in their habitat, subalpine and alpine meadows, tundra and mountainsides with elevations up to 13,000 feet. Here they graze on grasses, shrubs, lichens and coniferous trees. Mating season for these goats runs from late October through early December, during which males can be seen contesting each other in violent scuffles. Mountain goats may commonly be seen at Logan Pass, the highest elevation reachable by car in Glacier National Park.
Although it’s not endangered, the solitary wolverine is somewhat of a rare sight in Glacier National Park. Chances are you’re likely to smell this giant weasel before you ever see it. The wolverine’s pungent musk, which it uses to mark territory, has earned it funny nicknames like “skunk bear.” But a wolverine’s ferocity is no laughing matter. These stocky, muscular predators have been known to take down prey many times their size, such as deer, caribou and elk. In winter months, much of their diet is derived from carrion, which they dig for in frozen snowfields. Wolverines can be seen along the Highline Trail in the park.
Glacier National Park is bear country. Along with the Canada lynx and the gray wolf, the grizzly bear is one of the few threatened or endangered species residing in Glacier National Park. There are also black bears in the park, and it is important to be able to tell the difference. Grizzly bears can be identified by their larger, dished-in faces and humps of heavy muscle above their shoulders. Their hair can have silver tips, which give them their grizzled appearance, but their base coloring can range from blond to nearly black.
The number one rule concerning bears in the wild is not to surprise them. Visitors can reduce their chances of a bear encounter by making noise and remaining alert. Do not approach bears.