GLACIER NATIONAL PARK - The National Park Service is honoring the creator of a special program at Glacier National Park that uses the help of a four-legged friend.
The creator of the Bark Ranger program at Glacier is being recognized with Natural Resources Program Manager Mark Biel earning the award for Professional Excellence in Natural Resource Stewardship.
Biel was recognized for his leadership on several fronts, including his work to initiate a wildlife shepherding program, dark sky conservation, and mountain goat research.
The program uses a trained border collie, Gracie, to move bighorn sheep and mountain goats out of areas of high visitor use, such as the Logan Pass parking lot. Biel came to Glacier National Park in 2010 and launched the wildlife shepherding program in 2016.
"One thing we've noticed is there are a lot of visitors that come to the park now hoping to meet Gracie and that's great because I get to talk to visitors and remind them to be safe around wildlife and answer questions that they might have about the park or about park wildlife," Biel said. "So it's really taken off and gotten bigger than I ever imagined."
The program is funded through private donations to the Glacier National Park Conservancy. As the regional recipient of the award, Biel will compete against six other regional winners for the national award.