Glacier National Park in Montana has a new employee, and she’s a little ruff around the edges. Gracie, a 2-year-old border collie, is the park’s first-ever Bark Ranger, a herding dog tasked with keeping wildlife at a safe distance from visitors, NPR and Montana Public Radio report.
Most of her job description includes keeping bighorn sheep and mountain goats away from a busy parking lot in the park’s Logan Pass. The animals like to lick up poisonous antifreeze and nibble on discarded food and often get too close to visitors who are taking photos.
Previously, park employees have tried to shoo away the animals by shouting, waving, and making loud noises, but they tend to return fairly quickly. When wild animals and humans meet, it’s dangerous for both parties, and animals can get used to humans feeding them, bringing them back regularly.
The park has previously used trained dogs to drive away bears from roads during the visitor season. A Canadian National Park uses border collies to keep deer and their newborn fawns away from highly trafficked areas. Eventually, the animals learn to stay away altogether, as the Glacier National Park sheep and goats hopefully will.
Gracie and her handler visit the parking lot to drive away any wild animals once or twice a week. The rest of the time, they’re out in the park teaching people about staying safe around wildlife.
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