"Party animal" takes on a whole new meaning when you're talking about drunken grizzly bears, and Glacier National Park officials want no more of them, thank you.
They are taking special steps to ensure that hundreds of tons of corn spilled along the park's southern edge in a train derailment Sunday doesn't ripen into a boozy smorgasbord for all the bears in the area - as happened in 1985.Burlington Northern crews tried to clean up the 1985 corn spill but left much that couldn't be salvaged. Bears, both black and grizzly, were often spotted feeding on the corn.
By spring of 1987 the corn had fermented, and officials began receiving reports about bears getting tipsy after eating the spoiled spillage.
News reports about the "drunken bears" in Glacier Park were carried around the world, and flocks of spectators soon began gathering. Concerned about erratic behavior of the bears and the large number of people gathering, officials closed the area and mixed the leftover corn with lime, hoping the chemical reaction would stop the aroma from attracting bears.
"We think the lime was pretty effective on that last spill," Gary Gregory, resource management specialist with Glacier Park, said this week. "We had only one official sighting of a family group of grizzly bears at that site all year."
Gregory said officials are not sure whether the lime actually helped or if the fermentation process just ran its course.
Gregory sent two advisers to the scene to confer with Burlington Northern officials.
"The word we got is that 20 of the cars dumped corn, and there are 2,000 tons of corn spread out over 1,200 feet and 200 feet down a hill," he said.
Gregory said Brulington Northern officials have been understanding about the tipsy-bear problem and are trying to clean up all the corn despite a heavy snowfall.
"Our interest is in the bears, but there is a real potential for getting people hurt, too," Gregory said. "A large concentration of bears attracts a lot of people. We had a lot of close encounters the last time. We are going to be monitoring it."