Mountain Line 

Six grizzly bears have died due to unnatural causes this year in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, a small area in northern Idaho and the adjacent corner of Montana, one of the Lower 48’s six “ecosystems” where the bears are allowed to live. The Idaho Department of Fish and Game is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the bear killer(s).

Despite the increase in illegal killings, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is looking to relax protections on the bears by removing them from the Endangered Species list, citing a stable population of around 600 animals in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Conservation groups are concerned about the potential delisting, as it would hand protection responsibilities to individual states, although changes aren’t likely to happen until next year.

Fortunately, there’s no shortage of people in both the public and private sectors keeping watchful eyes on grizzly bears, and you can learn directly from one of the experts through a Glacier Institute course June 18–19 in Glacier National Park. Enroll in “Glacier’s Grizzlies” and your instructor will be bearman Chuck Jonkel. He’ll lead you “straight into the heart of grizzly country” (the park is home to half the griz living in the Lower 48). You’ll sample bear-specific foods and learn (watch?) their behavior during this $145 course ($165 includes lodging).

The Glacier Institute is offering a full platter of courses this week on myriad subjects, so whether you want to learn more about loons, wilderness survival, birding, butterflies or wolves, call these folks and get on board. Learn more by logging on to www.glacierinstitute.org or by calling 755-1211. Now is the time to register for the Bitterroot Birding and Nature Festival, June 17–19 at the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge near Stevensville. Attendees will score lectures and field trips by internationally known birding superstars, and will also celebrate “the debut of the Bitterroot Birding and Nature Trail” with its “25 prime viewing sites from Lolo Pass to Lost Trail.” All birders, from the serious to the casual, will find activities suited to them, and the festival coincides with Stevensville’s Western Heritage Days.

Registration runs $20, but logon to www.bitterrootbirdfest.com or call Lee Metcalf NWR for more information at 777-5552.

Or join the Montana Natural History Center’s “Birding Institute” June 23–25 for three birding field trips aimed at bettering your field identification skills under the tutelage of experts in locations “not open to the public.” Space is limited, so logon to www.MontanaNaturalist.org to get in on the goods.

The Rocky Mountaineers are heading up Burdette Creek, a tributary of Fish Creek, June 18–19, and they’d like you to come along. Wolves, elk and other critters abound in the roadless country, so call Dave Harmon at 240-9901 to attach yourself to this 12-mile roundtrip jaunt.

Triathletes can head to Kalispell’s Summit Fitness Center for the Summit Solstice Triathlon and Duathlon June 18. Billing itself as a “beginner’s tri,” the 3.1 mile run and 12.4 mile cycle take place on hilly paved streets, and the tri’s .5 mile swim takes place indoors, so what are you waiting for? Get on your bikes and ride (sugar!) by calling 751-4100.

Runners can head up the Bitterroot June 18 for the Darby Fun Run and Run for the Trail at Lake Como. The 5K takes place in downtown Darby, the 12K runs beneath the Como Peaks and around Como Lake. Learn more by calling 821-3282 or emailing goldcreek@gci.net.

On June 25, cyclists with a hard tush and a soft spot for kids with cancer should Ride Around The Pioneers in One Day. Colloquially known as the RATPOD, this one-day bicycle ride benefits Camp Mak-A-Dream as it circles 157 miles around the Pioneer Mountains from Dillon through the Big Hole.

“Riders are encouraged to seek pledges from sponsors to raise money for Camp Mak-A-Dream,” says the press release, and the ride is open to individuals or teams of riders. The camp is a cost-free, medically supervised camp for young cancer patients, and the opportunity to help out drew 300 riders last year. Food and water stops are provided, as is post-ride barbecue. Learn more by logging on to www.ratpod.org or calling 549-5987.

The Montana Wilderness Association is heading out on a six-mile Father’s Day hike to Castle Rock June 19 and they want you to join them. Meet at the West Fork Ranger Station, then do a “short scramble” up an old “volcanic plug” to a 360-degree view into the Selway/Bitterroot Wilderness and beyond. Call Cheryl Kikkert at 825-6955 for the details.

Send your outdoor schedule to photo@missoulanews.com.

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