Once again, our mountain parks have taken a hit, both literally and figuratively, with the death of a grizzly bear on the Canadian Pacific Railway line east of Lake Louise.
A couple of weeks ago, a large male grizzly was killed on the Trans-Canada Highway just west of Lake Louise – that was tragic.
One hates to measure one death against another, but this week’s death is more tragic still as the grizzly in question was a female with two cubs.
It’s quite possible, now, that one death will soon become three if the two cubs can’t manage life in the wilds on their own. Not only will they need to be wary of trains and vehicular traffic, they’ll also need to stay clear of large males which could prey on them. Fifty-pound cubs won’t fare well if targetted by a male of 300 or 400 pounds.
Typically, according to Hal Morrison, Parks human-wildlife conflict specialist for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay, research has shown that cubs may spend up to four years with their mother, learning the ropes of life in the Rockies.
Being orphaned at one year of age, it’s clear, is more than hazardous due to a lack of education.
Worse still, the female’s death is a real blow to the overall health of the grizzly population in our mountain parks. With just an estimated 60 individuals living in Banff National Park, every female taken from the population reduces the likelihood of grizzlies maintaining a stable population.
Imagine, if you will, the specter of grizzly bears being extirpated in a national park – in Canada’s very first national park, for that matter – one Banff Lake Louise Tourism has taken upon itself to dub ‘The World’s Finest National Park’.
Somehow, ‘The World’s Finest National Park’ just doesn’t have the same ring as ‘The National Park that used to be home to the mighty grizzly, the majestic mountain caribou and a dwindling population of Banff Springs snails’.
Perhaps, in future, environmentally-friendly cutouts of these species could be strategically placed within the park to give an indication of where these animals used to roam. That’d be a tourist attraction…
While people drive into and through the park en route to a tourist-attracting event like a Skins Game, special events attendees could take in what used to be...
And we’re assuming that a great deal of the talk of re-introducing bison into BNP must be predicated upon the idea that somehow, the massive bovines will be kept off the tracks and highways. Otherwise, what’s the point in having one species wiped out by vehicular traffic replaced with another which would face the same fate?
And in commenting on this latest rail-caused grizzly death, we realize and recognize that ‘the bear thing’ is a ‘mountain dweller thing’ that does not reach much beyond our valley as an issue.
And that’s part of the problem. CP Rail is a multi-billion dollar near-monopoly operation and clearly there is no big public relations hit in the case of bear deaths on their tracks. Consumer products don’t state ‘delivered by CPR’ or the like (as in the case of ‘dolphin free’ products, for example) so there is little way to affect the company’s profits by boycotting.
Short of another corporate entity like a wheat pool threatening to stop shipment of tens of thousands of tons of product unless bear deaths are halted, it’s unlikely any economic pressure can be brought to bear, if you will.
In the end, the bitter, bitter end, it will be a sad day indeed if the only visible reminders of our grizzly bears are museum displays.