I’ve seen grizzly bears following the tracks in Jasper NP.
By: Cathy Ellis, ROCKY MOUNTAIN OUTLOOK, Thursday, Apr 17, 2014
Garbage along the CP line.
Reports of toxic trash and garbage along the Canadian Pacific Railway line in Banff National Park have prompted a Parks Canada investigation.
A series of photos provided to the Outlook show items of toxic trash, including discarded bottles of anti-freeze, diesel fuel and motor oil, as well as plastic bottles and food containers, scattered along the tracks near Massive Siding just east of Hillsdale meadows. Several small oil spills were also present as well as the usual sprinkling of grain along the tracks, plus a few larger grain piles. One photo shows a large pile of grain-filled bear scat right by the line.
Grizzly bear 122, the large dominant male in the park, has been seen regularly feeding on grain along the train tracks this spring, primarily in the area near Massive Siding, about 1 6 kilometres west of Banff, and at Eldon Siding near Protection Mountain. Parks Canada officials say wardens went out to the site Monday morning (April 14), then contacted CPR and asked for the site to be cleaned up.
“It’s concerning, for sure. We don’t want to see anything toxic or unnatural food sources in the national park,” said Terry Willis, supervisor of Parks Canada’s law enforcement branch in Banff National Park. “Sometimes you find a juice box or bottle, and that’s nothing different than you would see on the side of highway, unfortunately. But when there’s pails of oil and things like that, we don’t want to see bears or other wildlife getting into that.”
Canadian Pacific Railway has been developing a big extension to its Massive siding, building another 4,600 feet of track to extend it to about 12,000 feet to allow larger trains on the same line to pass. Canadian Pacific Railway officials say the garbage was cleaned up Monday and Tuesday and that the vacuum truck was out on the tracks late last week, even before the railway giant was aware of the situation. Ed Greenberg, a spokesman for the company, said it was the company’s intention to clean up the mess within a few days and the incident has resulted in railway crews being reminded of proper cleanup protocols, particularly in the national park.
“Our railway acknowledges there was disconnect in the cleanup process and this refuse should have been taken away a lot sooner,” said Greenberg. “Since being alerted of this oversight, clean up crews were dispatched to the location on Monday where the refuse has been collected. We realize there were timing issues involved and the situation should have been resolved before this.”
Steve Michel, Banff’s human-wildlife conflict specialist, said Parks Canada continues to work closely with CPR to resolve the issue of spilled grain along the tracks, noting there have been improvements in the big picture, including a Parks Canada-CPR joint action plan and CP’s reinvestment in maintaining its fleet.
However, as a result of significant hauling because of a bumper grain crop, he said there’s currently grain spillage on the tracks that wildlife are actively feeding on, including bear 122.
Michel said bear 122 is frequenting the train tracks almost exclusively, primarily concentrating in areas near CPR siding locations such as Eldon and Massive, and is also travelling a bit further to the west. “It’s mid-April and we’re not seeing a lot of bear activity on the landscape, and bear 122 is the only one we’ve been seeing on a regular basis; in fact, we’re seeing him on a daily basis. He’s essentially just travelling the railway tracks,” he said.
Michel said other than winterkill carcasses, there’s no other major food source for bears at the moment. “Any time a grizzly bear is foraging on the railway tracks, it’s quite concerning for us,” he said. “We hope he avoids being struck by a train, but we recognize his current foraging patterns are putting him into a very risky situation.”
Meanwhile, Willis said it was his impression the garbage had been buried under snow throughout winter, and is now thawing out. He said he was not sure if it was related to regular railway work or the project to extend the siding. He said the next step is trying to find out who put it there. When asked if charges would be considered, Willis said it would likely result in a warning. “If it’s warranted, we certainly look at charges, but until we talk to CP and understand the circumstances of how it got there and who put it there… it’s hard to prove who put it there, right now,” he said.
Parks Canada asks that any suspicious activity be reported to 1-888-WARDENS .
Meanwhile, Parks Canada issued a warning on Tuesday (April 15) for the Great Divide Route (the old 1A Highway) because of a large grizzly bear frequenting the ski trail and adjacent railway.