Media Release – June 2, 2005
Another grizzly bear killed by Canadian Pacific train near Lake Louise
Spilled grain attracting bears to high risk buffet along tracks
Conservation groups are outraged that another grizzly bear has been killed while feeding along the CP rail tracks in Banff National Park. “The amount of grain that has accumulated along the tracks is absolutely unacceptable”, says Jim Pissot, executive director of Defenders of Wildlife Canada. “Three grizzlies have been killed by trains in the last five years. How many more bears will have to die before CP commits to dealing effectively with this issue?” This latest bear was struck and killed late Tuesday night.
The bear is thought to be a three-year-old cub that had been frequently observed feeding with its mother and sibling along the tracks this spring. “Bears that are rewarded with grain in one section will seek grain on the tracks even if spills are minimal,” says Pissot. Pissot visited the site of the bear’s death on Wednesday and noted grain in abundant grizzly scat along the tracks. Defenders of Wildlife Canada have joined the Grizzly Bear Alliance in calling upon CP rail to further reduce grain and attractive plant foods along the track right of way.
CP has a vacuum car to remove spilled grain, however, critics stress it is not used frequently enough, nor is it effective enough to deal adequately with the problem. The car works best on large spills but is much less effective at getting grain that trickles out of the cars or that falls amongst the ballast rock. Bears, however, have no difficulty getting the grain that remains – risking their lives and the lives of their offspring in the process.
“I’ve met with CP and they are not willing to do anything more to address this problem. From an economic standpoint, they feel the amount of grain lost is acceptable. From both a societal and environmental standpoint, however, it is absolutely unacceptable,” says Tracey Henderson, program director with the Grizzly Bear Alliance. “What other transport industry is allowed to knowingly spill their cargo as they cross the country?”
Henderson points out that the issue is not just one of animals being killed along the tracks. The spilled grain is a significant factor leading to the habituation of grizzly bears in Banff National Park. Bears feed along the tracks, often in plain view of people, and can follow the grain buffet into communities like Lake Louise and Field where they are even more apt to get into trouble.
She also points to the Burlington Northern Sante Fe (BNSF) railway company operating in northern Montana who have been much more progressive in dealing with grain issues along their track which runs close to Glacier Park. “BNSF have one vacuum car patrolling a 90 mile stretch of track almost daily , whereas CP has one vacuum car used sporadically to cover all of their tracks in the mountain parks. “ says Henderson. She also lists other strategies employed by BNSF, such as fencing high risk sections and the use of noise deterrents along the tracks.
The grain that spills out of the rail cars, primarily due to faulty bottom latches or improper closing at loading time, is a preferred source of good nutrition for bears this time of year when there is still considerable snow covering much of their food sources at higher elevations.
With only an estimated 700 grizzly bears left in Alberta, the population is low enough to qualify as a “threatened” species under Alberta’s Wildlife Act. A recent study released by the Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear project cautions that in the last two years grizzly bear survival rates in Banff and the surrounding area have been dangerously low, below the threshold needed to sustain the population.
For more information contact:
Jim Pissot, Executive Director, Defenders of Wildlife Canada 403-609-9958, 403-6787-0016
Tracey Henderson, Program Director, Grizzly Bear Alliance 403-678-8532, 403-678-9611