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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Efforts made to save grizzlies from trains

"Wildlife and railway experts will be thinking outside the boxcar this winter to come up with ways to reduce the number of grizzly bears that are killed by trains that rumble through the Rocky Mountain national parks straddling the B.C.-Alberta border."

"Placing water cannons on trains to squirt bears away from the tracks is the most colourful idea being floated."

"But the talks, involving Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd., are expected to focus on more practical solutions such as fencing off portions of the tracks and building special overpasses so bears can walk over the rail line instead of on it."

"It's all part of efforts to cut an unacceptable number of grizzly deaths, particularly among females who are of cub-bearing age, said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Parks Canada in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks."

"We are sitting down this winter with Canadian Pacific to talk through the pros and cons of each of these options and some of them might not be practical," Hunt said.
"The bear population in this part of the country is sensitive to any increase in human-caused mortality. If we can get rid of a fairly significant unnatural cause of death, then that is going to make the bear population that much more viable for future Canadians to enjoy."

"A Parks Canada report in May noted at least 63 bears, mainly females, died in the mountain parks between 1990 and 2008. The vast majority of the deaths were related to interaction with humans. Railways are listed as the main cause."

Spilled grain is irresistible

"The biggest problem is in Banff National Park, where the number of deaths of independent female grizzlies has exceeded Parks Canada targets for the past seven years."
"Why are so many bears dying on the tracks? Experts say one of the main reasons is grain spilled from bulging hopper cars en route to Vancouver from Prairie farms.
Spills of wheat, corn, peas and other grains are irresistible to the hungry omnivores, described as walking stomachs with noses."

"Some grizzlies will revisit spill sites again and again, year after year, clawing holes in the rail bed in search of kernels of grain. Once they start eating, they are oblivious to approaching trains."

To read the remainder of this article please click on the following address:

It is great to know that some members of my species are deeply concerned about the plight of the grizzly. I had no idea that 63 bears have been killed because of their colliding with trains in the 18 year reporting period mentioned above.
In Canada there are approximately 25,000 grizzly bears occupying British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the northern part of Manitoba. (source:Blood, D.A. 2002. Grizzly Bears in British Columbia. Province of British Columbia. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection). That means that a great many bears are sadly being exposed to potentially deadly contact with trains every year, due to the fact that Grizzly bears are known to be omnivores. The fact that these bears are dieing due to these encounters with trains is one of the reasons that Environment Canada consider the Grizzly bear to a "special concern" species, as it is particularly sensitive to human activities and natural threats. In Alberta and British Columbia, the species is considered to be at risk. It is critical for the survival of the grizzly that these measures to save the bears from morality on the  tracks because as stated at the website :

"Between 2000 and 2007, the Canadian Pacific Railway emerged as the leading human-related cause of grizzly bear mortality in Banff National Park. Seven grizzlies were struck by CPR trains,and none of the five cubs orphaned by these collisions survived within the park.
I know all of you who love nature and animals are with me, hoping that effective measures are thought of and used to reduce the morality of grizzly bear adults and cubs on the railroad tracks.
According to,

"Repairing leaking grain cars is a necessary—but not sufficient—step to reduce wildlife mortality on railway tracks.
Animals will stray onto the tracks, even if grain is not present. And Banff’s wild animals are habituated to finding grain
on the tracks. As many as three generations of grizzly bears in Banff and Yoho national parks are accustomed to finding
meals between the rails. For 15 years after open dumps were closed at Yellowstone National Park, bears returned
looking for a meal. Additional steps will need to be taken as defective cars are repaired and as trains continue to move
through Canada’s premier national parks.
We suggest these steps to reduce wildlife collisions on CP Railway tracks:
1. Characterize sites where animals are struck, killed or frequently seen. The first step in understanding and
reducing vehicle-wildlife collisions is to investigate the situations where animals are seen and struck. Was
the incident on a straight or curved section? Does vegetation—particularly edible forage—grow close to the
tracks? Is escape blocked by steep slopes, rivers, or embankments? Is there a known wildlife movement
corridor in the vicinity?
2. Document wildlife incidents. Train crews should record location, time of day, weather conditions and speed
of train. How far ahead of the train was the animal when spotted; what was it doing? How did the train crew
respond (whistle, horn, lights, other)? How did the animal react and what was the outcome?
3. Test the effectiveness of lights to alert and deter bears and other wildlife. Train crews have reported that
flashing lights appear to scare bears from the tracks.
4. Proceed as quickly as possible with the car repairs. “Bad order cars” should be pulled from service immediately.
Measure the amounts of grain spilled at various locations to document the effectiveness of the
repairs. In addition, measure the effectiveness of the vacuum truck.
5. Convene a workshop of wildlife managers, animal behaviour specialists, railway experts and others to address
the causes and solutions to train-wildlife collisions."

It is great to know that this problem has been discovered and that solutions have already been put forward to deal with the problem of leaking railroad cars.The fact that "more than 85% of grizzly bear deaths are human caused".(source:,) is a serious warning to us that we have to change our behavior so that grizzly bears do not become even more seriously threatened with extinction, especially due to the fact that experts can probably think of some very effective measures to reduce grizzly bear mortality due to human activity.According to the website, one such measure creatively thought up by a human is the " critter gitter."These are devices which have been placed  on each end of all the trestles in the The GNESA  (Great Northern Environmental Stewardship) corridor  which extends 58 miles from East Glacier National Park to West Glacier National Park, and separates the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and Glacier National Park.corridor. (see the map at this location

These have been tested with grizzly bears and proven to be an effective deterrent. These devices are 128-decibel aversive sound devices activated by motion and infrared heat.

Politicians and industrial leaders must listen to scientific experts about the extremely high level of grizzly bear morality attributed to human activity, even if this means changing existing human activity or using public funds to reduce the mortality of the bears! It is nice to know that caring humans such as those at  AlbertaBearSmart (see:, and GNESA are living on our planet and have created programs to enable human communities to coexist with bears.  Support the efforts of these organizations if you can.

Source of image of the two grizzly bear cubs:  This image  is the work of a U.S Fish and Wildlife Service  employee,  and was taken or made during the course of an employee's official duties. As a work of the U.S. federatl government, the image is in public domain.

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.