A woman was hospitalized in an encounter with a bear Sunday near the U.S.-Canada border north of Polebridge in Flathead County.
At about 3 p.m., Oct. 1, 2023, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks staff were notified that a woman was attacked along the bank of Trail Creek a few miles west of the North Fork Road. The A.L.E.R.T. air ambulance transported the 73-year-old victim to Logan Health Medical Center in Kalispell.
FWP wardens and bear specialists are actively investigating the incident and monitoring the site along Trail Creek known as the “Bubble ups” where the creek flows underground before rising to the surface. The site is closed while the investigation continues. The type of bear is unconfirmed at this time.
The victim was on national forestland with her husband and dog when the bear emerged from thick brush and attacked her. Her husband deployed bear spray and the bear moved away from the victim. They returned to their vehicle and drove to a location where they could call emergency services.
An announcement from Mark Heaphy of the North Fork Patrol . . .
A bear attack occurred Sunday afternoon [October 1st] in the vicinity of the “bubble ups”; located about 5 miles west on Trail Creek road. The victim was ALERT flighted to Logan Health for treatment. FWP has closed the area for several days and is monitoring. Please do not enter the area. (Travel on Trail Creek Road is not restricted.)
A heartfelt note from Justine Vallieres, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Bear Manager for Region 1 (initially posted to Facebook) . . .
As many of you may now know, I ended up catching the sow and cub that had been breaking into cabins and garages in the Moose City/Trail Creek/Ford Cabin area. The decision to remove bears is always a hard and gut wrenching one, but with these bears there was sadly no other option. First off I want to say that no one in the North Fork was in the wrong in these conflicts. People did not leave out attractants; this bear was only breaking into enclosures so please be gentle with each other.
These situations drive me to do better as a bear specialist, to do more education, continue to build better and closer relationships with landowners and do as much preventative work as I can. Each bears death is not in vain, and as each passes I promise I’ll try harder, and try to do better. I’m grateful to the North Forkers for being able to live amongst the bears so well. Thank you for doing your part. My hope is that other communities will follow suit someday.
One thing I still ask is that you call me as soon as you experience any type of conflicts as the sooner I know about it the sooner I can try and get ahead of the problem so it doesn’t escalate beyond the point of no return. By not calling in conflicts it does the bears a huge disservice. So please call. I’m not here to pass judgement or shame you, I just want to help you and help the bears. Please don’t point fingers or shame each other if conflicts occur, especially in this instance no one did anything wrong. Unfortunately this bear was too far gone from her previous history and crossing boundaries by breaking into buildings. When I caught her at the beginning of August there was so implication that she was breaking into enclosures so things either escalated or people were not calling in conflicts.
Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Thank you.
This afternoon, September 18, we received a progress report on the road construction work in the North Fork from Chris Rossmiller, a Senior Technical Specialist with the Federal Highway Administration’s Kalispell Regional Project Office. The entire report is below, with some minor editing and reformatting, but here’s the short version:
North end of North Fork Road — They expect to finish the culvert placement and drainage work but, most likely, the road surface refinishing will not be completed until next year. They will, however, ensure that the road is at least drivable and open for use before they shut down for the season.
Glacier Drive — They plan to finish all the Glacier Drive work this year, from the Merc property to Glacier Park, with the possible exception of seeding along the shoulders.
I believe the auction of some of Doug Barnes’ estate has been mentioned here and there already, but Mark Heaphy’s note is a good summary of the event…
I just got word… that the items that Gardners Auction picked up from Doug Barnes’s property will be in an auction on 9/25/23. People can bid online if they’d like to so it should be convenient for North Fork residents.
The Flathead National Forest just released its fall list of 13 prescribed burning projects. Only one, the “Red Whale Landscape” burn, is in the North Fork.
As usual, the entire plan depends on weather conditions, air quality issues and, occasionally, whether or not they can get a fire started in the first place.
Here’s the write-up for our local burn . . .
Red Whale Landscape – Approximately 536 acres will be treated with prescribed burning this fall in Moose creek and Moran creek. This project location is in the North Fork of the Flathead about 4 miles northwest of Polebridge. Depending on weather, this burn is planned for mid to late September or early October. The purpose of this project is to help restore a more historical fire regime to the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat, and reduce hazardous fuels to reduce wildfire risk and aid in potential future fire suppression efforts.
From our friends at the Le Grizz event committee . . .
Greetings, North Forkers, from the Le Grizz Committee!
This year on Saturday, October 14th we’ll be gathering at the Glacier Institute’s Big Creek Outdoor Education Center off the North Fork Road to run a this-year-only 50-mile route that meanders up Coal Creek Road (aka Big Creek Rd), featuring a turn-around at Moose Lake. Next year we plan to be back on the North Fork, so don’t miss this unique course!
For runners not feeling up to the full 50, we’re also doing a 5k, a 10k, and a Little Grizz fun run. And, as in previous years, we’re doing a 50 mile team relay as well.
On Glacier Drive near Polebridge, clearing, and grubbing activities are complete. Culvert installation is also complete. Once the crew has completed placement of millings on Blankenship & Belton Stage Roads, they will mobilize to Glacier Drive and start placing millings before beginning surface work near Polebridge Mercantile.
On North Fork Road, the contractor’s plan is to start 6-7 day work weeks until project completion. Culvert installation, survey, clearing, and grubbing activities are ongoing.The contractor is scheduled to mobilize the crushing operation and begin processing surface aggregates at Whale Creek Pit in the next week.
Many of you probably got a card in your mailbox regarding a short (6-10am) North Fork Road Closure between the Camas intersection and end-of gravel due to the running of the Cedar Creek Marathon on Saturday, September 23.
According to the postcard . . .
The runners will run from Big Creek Campground to Columbia Falls. The route will travel along North Fork Road, Blankenship Road and Lake Drive.
There will be a road closure from Camas Creek Road [i.e., Camas Road] to the end of gravel from 6-10 a.m. Beyond that, you will be able to come and go as you please and the sheriff’s posse will be present to help ensure safety.