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 Nicky Ouellet/Montana Public Radio

Photo credit: Nicky Ouellet/Montana Public Radio

The Glacier National Park Conservancy has kicked off a unique pilot program to help keep wildlife and visitors safe in Glacier National Park: Bark Rangers.

Gracie, a 2-year-old border collie, has been trained to keep wildlife away from popular tourist areas in the park and to teach visitors to keep a safe distance from animals native to the area.

From NPR.org and Montana Public Radio:

Encounters between visitors to national parks and wild animals can go awry. Sometimes, it’s the visitors who approach the animals, but just as often it’s the animals that approach the visitors.

“We did see a lot of crazy stuff up there. People getting way too close, trying to take pictures, or surrounding a goat with a kid on the outside running around crying, trying to get to mom but, you know, there’s 15 people around mom taking a picture,” says park ranger Mark Biel, Gracie’s handler. “That’s kind of unacceptable.”

Often, visitors assume if an animal is near popular areas and interacting with humans, they’re a tame animal. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case.

Mountain goats especially have taken to congregating at a parking lot at Logan Pass — the most remote and highest point you can reach in the park by car — to lick up sweet-tasting, but poisonous, antifreeze and eat the salty snacks tourists leave behind. Biel says that’s a problem for the animals and for people.

Read more about Gracie and Glacier National Park Conservancy’s pilot program on NPR.org. You can also follow Gracie on Instagram!