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Bear conservation initiative

In October 2010, the Government of Canada and CP launched a five-year joint grizzly bear research initiative. This included a $1 million grant from CP to support research to improve our understanding of the underlying causes of bear-train collisions. The goals of this research were to understand underlying causes that contribute to grizzly bear risk on the railway and to identify and begin implementing solutions to reduce grizzly bear mortality on the railway. As part of this initiative, a suite of research projects were undertaken in collaboration with the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary to increase our understanding of how grizzly bears use habitat that intersects with the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks. This multiyear research is now complete. Through this initiative we learned that grizzly bears use the railway for many different reasons. Bear-train collisions pose a complex problem, with no simple solution. However, there are steps we can take to reduce the risk of grizzly bear-train collisions. 

Grizzly bears in the mountain national parks are part of a larger grizzly population interconnected through the Rocky Mountains. The grizzly bears in this ecosystem have the lowest recorded reproductive rates in North America. Population trend studies show that grizzly bear populations remain steady in the mountain parks.

Based on the recommendations made by researchers, Parks Canada and CP are taking steps to reduce the risk to grizzly bears along the railway in Banff and Yoho national parks. Though this study is focused on grizzly bears and the rail corridor, it is anticipated these measures will also benefit black bears and other wildlife beyond the rail right-of-way.

Parks Canada will focus on targeted measures that will influence bear behaviour off the rail line to reduce the overall risk of grizzly bear-train collisions.

These targeted measures include:

  • Developing and improving wildlife travel routes and trails adjacent to key areas that have a high risk for grizzly bear-train collisions.
  • Prescribed fires and forest thinning to enhance grizzly bear habitat away from the railway. 
  • Applying new knowledge and technology developed through this research to improve wildlife management practices in the mountain national parks. For example, electrified mats have been installed and are being piloted in conjunction with Texas Gates in several road openings to existing highway fencing in Kootenay National Park.

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.
  • A pilot exclusion fencing and electromat program around railroad greasers aimed at keeping bears away from this potential attractant.
  • Together Parks Canada and CP are optimistic that these targeted science-based mitigations on and off the railway will help to reduce the risk to grizzly bears along the railway in Banff and Yoho national parks.

CP has a proud history of working closely with Parks Canada in protecting our national parks. 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.