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A Primer on Grizzly Bear Advocacy

Railroad Companies and Highway Departments

With increased vehicular traffic in the region, more and more bears are being killed by collisions.  Highways also fragment habitat and fracture grizzly bear ecosystems by impeding the free movement of grizzlies. But state highway departments can help reduce deaths by lowering speed limits and by building highway overpasses and underpasses in areas where wildlife tend to cross.  Effective crossings have been constructed in Banff Park in Alberta. A collaborative effort involving the Federal Highway Administration, Montana Department of Transportation and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has also installed numerous crossing structures on Highway 93 in Montana’s Flathead Valley. But much more needs to be done.

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Similarly, trains routinely kill grizzlies for a number of reasons. (See this Report by David). Trains accidentally kill elk and deer that, in turn, attract bears to railways where they too are killed. Hopper cars transporting grain during the fFall also accidentally spill grain on the tracks and draw bears to their death. The Sante Fe-Burlington Northern Railroad running along the south boundary of Glacier Park through the Middle Fork of the Flathead River is a particular concern. Here, increased train traffic increasingly disrupts movement of grizzlies from Glacier Park into areas farther south.  Slowing train speeds, reducing night-time train traffic, and assiduous removal of attractants along railways can help prevent grizzly bear deaths.

What Railroad Companies & Highway Departments Should Do

Railroad companies need to work with researchers to nail down where and under what circumstances grizzlies are being killed; collaborate with agencies, conservation groups and Tribes to facilitate wildlife crossings; invest more resources in the removal of attractants; and reduce speed limits.

What You Can Do

Transportation systems are enormously complex, as are the decision-making processes of highway departments and agencies that oversee railway operations.  Building wildlife-friendly crossings is hugely expensive and can take years. But the recently passed infrastructure bill should provide more resources for, in turn, creating more structures to make highways and railways less lethal to bears and other wildlife.

There is always a need for comments supporting wildlife-friendly crossings in Letters to the Editor or other opinion pieces in local media; on social media; or in comments to members of Congress and the Administration who are engaged with grizzly bear conservation and infrastructure issues.

There are several groups that specialize in making transportation systems safer for wildlife that deserve your support, including Center for Large Landscape Conservation, Western Transportation Institute, and the Craighead Institute.

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