Why trains run down grizzlies: ‘After six years of study, Parks Canada, Canadian Pacific blame the bears’


Michele Jarvie, Postmedia News | February 9, 2017 

Grizzlies on railway tracks in Banff National Park.

Courtesy (c) John E. Marriott ImageGrizzlies on railway tracks in Banff National Park.

Some wildlife activists and Banff business owners are voicing disappointment over recently released results of a $1-million, five-year study into bear deaths on train tracks in mountain national parks.

Jim Pissot of WildCanada Conservation Alliance, says the recommendations to create alternative habitat and escape routes, manage vegetation, install early warning systems and electric mats ignore one glaring reason grizzlies are attracted to the tracks — spilled grain from rail cars.

“Bizarrely, after six years of study, Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific have blamed the bears,” said Pissot. “They are determined that the bears, wolves and other wildlife must change their behaviour, but CP will not have to.”

The study found that approximately 110 tonnes of grain is lost on the tracks each year, which is equivalent to the annual nutritional needs of 50 adult grizzlies. In the past 10 years, 10 grizzlies have been killed by trains in Banff and Yoho parks.

But the study’s research team found a number of reasons why bears are attracted to the railway, including ease of movement along the rail corridor, abundance of berries and other plants and, to a lesser extent, spilled grain.

“It’s not the only factor attracting them, and may not be the main one,” said University of Alberta professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair.

kA grizzly looks for snacks along the tracks just west of Lake Louise, Alta., on Tuesday, May 20, 2014. The bear heard a train coming and got out of the way quickly.

She said they looked at grain spillage and train speed, and found more grain was spilled the slower the train travelled. More grain was also deposited at the west end of the park, yet the grizzly bear mortality was higher at the east end.

When the study results were released in January, CP officials said they had no plans to adjust procedures or policies beyond continuing to respond to grain spills with vacuum and blower trucks.

Critics question why Parks Canada is not pushing Canadian Pacific to take action.

“Death on CP tracks is the number one human cause of grizzly bear mortality in Banff National Park,” said Stephen Herrero, professor emeritus at the University of Calgary and one of Canada’s foremost experts on grizzly bears. “The railway needs to do more.”

Juniper Hotel hotelier Peter Poole said wildlife deaths negatively impact tourists and, potentially, Banff businesses.

“Our guests — and Canadian taxpayers — are dismayed when the elk and bears in our national parks are killed unnecessarily. There are straightforward solutions that would cost pennies for each tonne of cargo going through our mountain parks; let’s get on with it.”


6 thoughts on “Why trains run down grizzlies: ‘After six years of study, Parks Canada, Canadian Pacific blame the bears’

  1. Yeah ok. Let’s blame the bears and forget about those who 1. fragmented their habitat by installing train tracks and 2. those who are ultimately responsible for their welfare and demise due to human activity and encroachment upon their environment. Wtf.

  2. Bear deaths usually boil down to some form of human encroachment: destruction of habitat, fragmentation of habitat, extraction industries, attractants (like grain falling off train cars), hunting (recreational killing), poaching, ranching in bear habitat or very close by, lack of safe corridors over or under roads and tracks. There is often development nearby with citizens “rights” to chickens, bird feeders, garbage. If bears are to survive in the wild, they must have wilderness protected, free of hunters, free of ranching, safe passage, no attractants. People who are lucky enough to live in bear environs are mandated to live with the bears, or other predators, and accommodate coexistence. Else it is continuing encroachment on already drastic shrinkage of habitat.

  3. The #1 worst thing, in my opinion, after encroachment and fragmenting of habitat and taking joy in killing, is that people do not feel they owe one iota of obligation to other creatures who also live on this planet. Just continually take. Hard to understand coming from the compassionate and intelligent creatures we tell ourselves we are. This is just one of many terrible examples.

  4. I was researching the whole complex issue of this Grain Industry, which is involved with multitudes of trade relations between U.S. and countries around the world. I was trying to find out what the percentage of these grains were going to feed livestock on the planet. I’m sure it is monumental, but also includes cooking oil, cereals, etc. This is excellent reading for a rainy or snowy day!
    http://publications.gc.ca/collections/Collection-R/LoPBdP/BP/prb982-e.htm#C. Canola Crops are one of the major demands for a growing world market.

    What’s the point of this? Well, I never thought much about just how much ordinary things, like Canola or breakfast cereals affect everything, including wildlife.
    It just cements the need for Homo-sapiens to be gone from this planet. Right now, the whole Earth is one Big Commodity–and it’s getting worse every day, as Human Population increases every second:


    Just as I wrote this, I noted on the Population Clock, about 250,000 humans have been born today!

    7.5 BILLION and Counting.

    Can Grizzlies and other non-humans survive this on onslaught?

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