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Glacier Bay Podcast: Goats and Bears

For Ranger Janene Driscoll, every day in Glacier Bay is unlike any before it. In fact, Driscoll says that the best day on the Bay is any day because you’re witnessing it change from day to day and even hour to hour. Even though a lot of rain falls in Glacier Bay, it creates snow in the peaks towering 15,000 feet above and fog on the ground at sea level and it’s that dynamic weather system that creates some dramatic change for visitors to the Bay. And that range starts at the shore and goes almost straight up, with an ecosystem that changes as it climbs. And yet, it’s all so new, as the glacier retreated from the Bay 250 years ago. So there are plants and animals living in the Bay area that are, geologically speaking, new to the neighborhood.

Visitors who bring binoculars will see dots of color in the fields and forests that show mountain goats, wild Elk, and brown bears. But it’s the Goats that Driscoll finds interesting. They’re climbers who move from Tlingit Point all the way to the icy cold of the Grand Pacific Glacier. But they mostly gather in a place called Gloomy Knob, where visitors should definitely use their binoculars to see the dots of white on the cliffs.

Evolution has really aided in the adaptation of these creatures, having given their hooves a wide “V” shape. Coupling that with a soft pad underneath and they have the ideal tools for keeping traction on the steep mountain cliffs. But even then, they do sometimes fall. Driscoll points out that Bears can climb too and sometimes you can see them high on the cliffs. But it’s the vegetation along the shore that makes up a lot of their diet. So it isn’t surprising to see them frequenting the beaches and the meadows, feeding on grasses, sedges, and even wild berries. There’s plenty to see in the Bay.

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Listeners can download all 16 of the Glacier Bay podcasts, or only a specific audio file, onto a personal iPod, MP3 or portable media player before embarking on a Holland America Line Alaska cruise to Glacier Bay. Preloaded podcasts on iPods also are available on board for checkout. To access the complete “Glacier Bay Ranger Podcast Anthology” click here.

Paul Lasley and Elizabeth Harryman, travel writers, broadcasters and regular contributors to the Holland America blog, worked with the National Park’s rangers, scientists and naturalists to allow you this rare insider’s view into the science and wild beauty of Glacier Bay National Park.

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