Watch Gracie the 'Bark Ranger' Border Collie Keep Wildlife and Visitors Safe at Glacier National Park
In 2016, staff members at GNP discovered a growing safety issue at their park. The habituated wildlife—especially mountain goats and bighorn sheep—roamed close to the trails and parking lots, causing an increased safety risk for both park visitors and wildlife. That's when Mark Biel, GNP's Natural Resources Program Manager, took inspiration from other parks to resolve the issue; a herding dog that could safely direct wildlife away from busy areas.
Biel volunteered Gracie, his own border collie, for the task. And after temperament assessments, personality assessments, and a 10-week training program, Gracie was ready for the job.
Biel tells Daily Paws that on Gracie's first day as GNP's Wildlife Working Dog (or 'Bark Ranger,' her adorable unofficial title) she proved she was fit for the job after herding six bighorn sheep away from a parking lot in less than a minute.
"One 50 pound border collie against all those bighorn rams. She felt pretty good about herself," Biel says.
Biel tells Daily Paws the 7-year-old pooch is eager to please and incredibly smart, two traits the herding dog breed has employed for centuries dating back to the Roman Empire! In Gracie's case, Biel says that when the rangers need her to herd wildlife away from roads and humans, she's energetic and focused on getting the job done. We're sure this hard worker would make her herding ancestors proud.
But Gracie's duties as Bark Ranger don't stop at herding wildlife. She also helps Biel educate visitors about park rules, in particular, why approaching wildlife is dangerous for both people and animals.
"If it were just me out there trying to keep people away from wildlife, they might look at me and ignore me…But with Gracie, she's an attraction. So when I have her I find that people definitely do listen," Biel says.
With those incredible skills and striking good looks, it's easy to see why Gracie is such a hit. Outside of keeping visitors and wildlife safe, the photogenic pup is also down to pose for photos with park visitors (only after she's finished her herding duties, of course). And for those of us who won't be visiting the national park anytime soon, fans can keep up with Gracie and all her incredible skills on Instagram at @barkrangernps.