Glacier National Park Sees ‘Significant Increase’ in Emergency Calls in Last 10 Years

by Amy Myers

So far, in 2022, seven visitors have died while exploring Glacier National Park, and officials say that they are receiving more emergency calls than ever.

Recently, officials confirmed that three of the seven deaths this year were from natural causes. But that still means four visitors lost their lives from unexpected circumstances, and the calls for help just keep rolling in.

Brandy Burke, the public affairs assistant for the park, stated that the three most common deaths to occur in Glacier National Park are natural causes (such as seizures, heart attacks and strokes) as well as drowning and falling.

What’s most concerning about this year’s numbers is the fact that three occurred just last month in two separate incidents. Among these victims were two local, expert climbers. According to Glacier National Park, all of these fatalities and the additional non-naturally-caused death were the result of an accidental fall while climbing.

“There has been a significant increase of service calls over the last 10 years,” Burke reported to Great Falls Tribune.

What the public didn’t know at the time, though, was that personnel from ALERT, Two Bear Air, and Minuteman Aviation were all at work in the park. Not to mention, law enforcement officers were also responding to separate life-support calls elsewhere in the area.

“Those are the things that don’t get reported, (that) you don’t hear about every day, but they are working extra hard,” she said.

Glacier National Park Staff Says July Climbing Deaths Were Unrelated

On July 21, Brian Kennedy and Jack Beard set out to climb Dusty Sta Mountain together. Both 67-year-old men were from Montana and had decades of Glacier mountain climbing experience under their harnesses. In fact, the pair knew the area so well that a few staff members even knew the two by name, according to a statement from the NPS.

Sadly, the two never made it home from their journey. Just four days later, a 79-year-old man from Florida died while climbing a steep, off-trail route on Rising Wolf Mountain.

Despite the increase in emergency calls, though, Gina Kerzman, a Glacier National Park spokesperson, told the Missoulian that the recent deaths are a matter of coincidence, not correlation. Our national parks are currently in the midst of the busy season, and unfortunately, with more visitors come more accidents.

“There’s just a lot of people out in the park enjoying the nice weather,” Kerzman said.

Additionally, Burke emphasized the importance of knowing one’s limits while hiking or climbing in rough terrain.

“Visitors should know their own personal limits,” Burke said in an email. “If hiking, make sure they understand the terrain, the distance and difficulty level of the hike. Many of our calls come from people who were participating in activities above their capabilities, i.e., too strenuous of a hike.”