by Suzanne Vernon
For the Pathfinder
July 30, 1998
Trail crews in the Swan Valley are warning hikers and stock users to be aware of potential bear problems in the Sapphire Lake area above Holland Lake following an incident that apparently occurred on July 4 or 5.
While on regular backcountry patrols, rangers in Bigfork discovered a dead mule deer doe carcass floating and decomposing in Sapphire Lake, along with severe damage to the lakeshore and camping area apparently caused by campers.
The damage included a large trash-filled firepit, soap in the lake, roots and branches cut with saws for seats, meadow damage along 100-feet of lakeshore, and exposed human toilet areas. Rangers also found bullet cartridges in the area.
According to one of the trail crew's weekly reports, the stench from the deer carcass was quite strong in the area, and crews plan to move the carcass away from the site as soon as possible. Rangers advised hikers last week to stay clear of the area because the carcass created "a bait station for bears that may get an unknowing visitor in trouble," the report said.
The Sapphire Lake area is managed by the Flathead National Forest, Swan Lake Ranger District in Bigfork.
In other trail news, main trails into the Bob Marshall are open and activity is especially brisk in the Holland Lake area where stock use is popular.
In the Mission Mountains Wilderness, rangers are reminding hikers that the McDonald Peak area is once again closed from July 15 to October 1 to protect grizzly bears that gather in the area to feed on insects. The area is managed by the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribal Council and according to rangers is the only known grizzly bear concentration area in the Mission Mountains.
Other main trails in the Mission Mountains are open. Trail crews remind hikers that the Glacier Lake area is closed to camping and that the Jim Lakes basin has become increasingly difficult to travel in because of large amounts of blowdown.