Over the past decade, there have been 10 confirmed rail-caused grizzly mortalities in Banff and Yoho national parks. While population trend studies show that grizzly bear populations remain steady in the mountain parks, the bears are part of an interconnected population that have the lowest recorded reproductive rates in North America.
In 2010, CP and Parks Canada signed a five-year Joint Action Plan aimed at reducing grizzly bear mortality on the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks. While a reduction in grizzly mortalities within Banff and Yoho national parks has been observed since the start of this joint research initiative, this research shows there is no simple solution to this issue.
By working collaboratively since the launch of this initiative, Parks Canada, CP and research teams from the Universities of Alberta and Calgary learned about the complex factors that influence grizzly bear behavior along the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks.
"CP has a proud history of working closely with Parks Canada in protecting our national parks. The results of this five-year partnership will help CP and other stakeholders make decisions that ensure the on-going health of the grizzly bear population while continuing to meet the needs of the North American economy. CP is pleased to have taken a leadership role on this initiative, the results of which will also assist other railways in better managing their own relationships with wildlife," said Glen Wilson, assistant vice president environmental risk at CP.
Between 2010 and 2015, at any given time, a minimum of 11-13 grizzly bears with GPS radio-collars were being tracked by researchers. The data collected showed specialists where, when and sometimes why bears were using the railway. Based on the recommendations from the research initiative and in keeping with the Canada National Parks Act and Banff and Yoho Park Management Plans, Parks Canada and CP will implement measures on and off the railway to help reduce the risk of grizzly bear train collisions including the use of prescribed fire and forest thinning, development of alternative travel routes for bears, targeted vegetation management and a pilot exclusion fencing program near railway greasing stations.
CP will focus on mitigation efforts within its existing right-of-way, including investing in a targeted, multi-year vegetation management program throughout Banff and Yoho national parks that will decrease attractant vegetation and open escape paths in confined areas and a pilot exclusion fencing and electromat program around railroad greasers aimed at keeping bears away from this potential attractant.
The results of the research and subsequent action from CP and Parks Canada will reduce the likelihood of bear-train collisions and further protect this iconic species for present and future generations.
"Our Government is committed to protecting and preserving our national parks and its wildlife. This unique collaboration between Canadian Pacific and Parks Canada allows us to use the best available science to help reduce railway-related risks posed to grizzly bears. These efforts in conservation will insure that bears and people can continue to successfully share the iconic landscape of Banff and Yoho national parks for generations to come," said the Honorable Catherine McKenna Minister of Environment of Canada.