Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Another Banff Grizzly Killed

Yesterday morning, I was getting ready to write a new blog post about all the wonderful bears I've seen over the past week. Unfortunately, the news of bear deaths in the Rockies began circulating and my plans changed. I realized that even though I had great luck finding bears over the weekend, the local grizzly bear population took a huge hit.

The first news I received yesterday came from a friend and fellow photographer, Brandon T. Brown. Brandon had spent Sunday evening photographing a sow grizzly with her newborn cubs. He returned to the same location yesterday morning to find one of the cubs lying dead at the side of the road. The sow was lying on a ridge above, looking down at the body and there was no sign of the second cub anywhere either.

Male bears will often kill and eat cubs, but for now, it's unclear what happened to this bear family. If it was a natural death at the hands of another bear, even though it's very sad, at least it was nature taking it's course. However, from looking at the way people drive around here, it could easily have been a vehicle that struck and killed these cubs. I'm always shocked at how fast people drive out here, especially in the National Parks!

And if this news wasn't already bad enough, I then went on to read a newspaper article about ANOTHER grizzly that was killed along the train tracks near Lake Louise on Saturday! This bear was killed whilst eating grain on the tracks and she leaves behind two orphaned cubs, both yearlings (one year old).

On Friday morning, I was out looking for bears to photograph with another friend and fellow photographer, John E. Marriott. We spotted a grizzly bear family off the side of the highway in Lake Louise and were able to photograph them for about half an hour. The cubs we found are very likely to be the ones that suffered the loss of their mother the following day. John and I must have been the last people to see this family before the train hit.

The sow grizzly (and the now orphaned cubs) that was killed by a CP train this weekend (the day after I took this photo) - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

These cubs have almost no chance of surviving the summer by themselves as they were completely dependent on their mother. When these cubs die, there will be five less grizzlies in Alberta, all due to the events of one weekend. I keep reminding myself that our grizzly bears are supposed to be a protected endangered species, yet every other week it seems I'm reading about their deaths on our roads and especially along the railway lines in Banff!

The sow grizzly walking with one of her cubs through the snow - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
One of the cubs looks for some attention - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Between 1980 and 2008 the roads and railways combined slaughtered some 20,000 to 30,000 (1,000 to 1,500 annually) animals the size of a wolverine or larger in the four Rocky Mountain national parks (Banff, Kootenay, Yoho, Jasper), all part of a UNESCO world heritage site! Since 2000, trains have killed 13 grizzly bears in Banff National Park that we know of, including 11 reproducing females. Without their mothers' care, none of the five cubs orphaned by these railway deaths have survived to adulthood in the park.

This problem is not going to go away. This week, we saw up to five trains a day shooting through the national park at 90km per hour at least. Parks Canada claim that they are doing great conservation work here in Banff, but the truth is, nowhere near enough is being done to tackle this issue!

Every time I step onto the train tracks in Banff, I see grain spilled all over the place. The bears love to eat grain and that is why so many of them are hit by the trains. How hard can it be to stop grain falling from a train carriage really?! Canadian Pacific (who made $19 billion profit from 1999 to 2008!) has put a measly $1 million aside to help deal with bear mortality in our national parks, but that was months ago and so far, I'm not sure any of that money has been put to use.

One of the now orphaned cubs, playing with it's mother the day before her death - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
The sow grizzly that was killed on Saturday - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
The orphaned grizzly cubs who are not likely to survive the summer without their mothers' care - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada


Well to start with, I'm going to write an e-mail to some Parks Canada officials telling them that this is unacceptable and very disappointing! I urge you to please do the same. If we all stand together on this and put them under pressure to make a difference, then we might finally start to see some results.

The first person to write to is Dave Cairns at:     Dave.Cairns@pc.gc.ca  

and send the same letter to:     Pam.Veinotte@pc.gc.ca 

Please try to keep your letter short (less than 150 words is preferable) and remain polite and respectful.

I will also write to Mr Fred Green, president and CEO of CP at:    community_connect@cpr.ca

and to our local MP, Mr Blake Richards at:    blake@blakerichards.ca

as well as the federal Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent at:     kentp@parl.gc.ca

If you would like to learn more about what is REALLY going on in our national parks, you should read my friend Peter Dettling's new book 'The Will Of The Land'.

Peter has spent many years photographing wildlife in the Rocky Mountain parks and he has gathered lots of data and statistics on how the parks are run. This book will show you the ugly truth behind what's really going on in our national parks.

Well, this weeks post has been a sad one, but if there's a chance we can make something good happen because of this incident, then we should try our best. I'm hoping to get this post published on the cover of Banff's local newspaper next week, along with a few photos, in a bid to make some more of the locals aware of what's going on right on their doorsteps!

Now please, start writing those letters!

Thank you,


(The statistic in this post were taken from Peter Dettling's website at www.terramagica.ca)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Back To The Rockies

It's been just over a week since my last post so it's time for an update as promised.

I've decided not to photograph anything today so that I can try to catch up on some much needed sleep! My 4am starts over the last few days have taken their toll on me and I feel like I need a day off to relax and edit some photos.

Since arriving back in Canada last Thursday, my luck has been fluctuating quite a bit. For example, when I arrived last Thursday I was taken for a drive almost straight away. I hadn't been in the country for more than three hours when a wild lynx crossed the road ahead of us! Before it disappeared into the trees it paused and looked back at us over it's shoulder, almost as if to say 'welcome back'.

This incredible encounter was shortly followed by an hour of grizzly bear photography. We found a beautiful looking bear as we were heading home and I managed to get some great shots of him as he dug for roots in the rain. What a great start to another year in the Canadian Rockies!

However, the last few days have been tough. I've spent a lot of time out looking for bears with a friend of mine, and we've had no luck whatsoever. We even found a recently killed deer and returned to it the following morning to see if there was something feeding on it. To our surprise, the whole carcass had been eaten during the night and there was no sign of any predators anywhere nearby. The lack of bears and wolves meant that we turned out attention to photographing other animals such as deer and birds.
This paid off. Over the last few days I've taken some images that I'm really pleased with. I'm still itching to see a wolf sometime soon, but at least we made something out of a bad situation.

Here are a few of my favourites from the last week...

(click on an image to enlarge)

Grizzly bear stroll - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Snowy coyote - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Western tanager - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Male grizzly bear - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Bighorn sheep silhouette - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Black bear family - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Young grizzly bear - Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Misty morning coyote - Canmore, Alberta, Canada
Cow moose chewing - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Wet grizzly bear - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Cute western tanager - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Mount Temple grizzly bear - Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
Spray Lake panorama - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Misty morning - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
Deer silhouette - Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada

Next week it's time to start looking for a job so I don't know if I will be out shooting as much. I will try to post another update sometime next week though.

To see more of my work, don't forget to visit my website at www.toothandclawphotography.com

You can also follow me on twitter and facebook.

Facebook - Cai Priestley Photography

Twitter - Cai Priestley

All photographs are available to purchase. Please send me a message via my website if you have any questions.

Thank you for reading,


Saturday, 14 May 2011

Beautiful Britain

It's been quite a while since my last post (I apologize) so I'm going to make a real effort to start updating this blog on a weekly basis.

A few days ago I returned the Canadian Rockies to spend another year photographing in the mountains. When I left Banff back in September to return to Wales, I was worried that I wouldn't get a chance to see any incredible wildlife or scenery for a while. For so long I had been comparing Canada and the Rockies to Britain and the thought of returning home was not a happy one.

After spending seven months back in the UK, I have finally realized its true beauty. British wildlife might not be as exotic as the bears, wolves and cougars that roam these mountains, but we do have some wonderful creatures on our little island. The wildlife is a lot harder to find and photograph, but our scenery can rival anywhere in the world.

The following is a selection of photographs that I took whilst I was home. This is beautiful Britain...

(click on an image to enlarge)

Bluebell woodland - Cardiff, Wales
Fallow deer sunrise - Port Talbot, Wales
Red fox vixen - Cardiff, Wales
Starling flock - Pembrokeshire, Wales
Fishing heron - Cardiff, Wales
Curlew flock sunset - Rhossili Bay, Wales
White water - Pembrokeshire, Wales
Bluebell woodland - Cardiff, Wales
Oystercatcher feeding - Pembrokeshire, Wales
Gower sunset - Rhossili Bay, Wales
Enchanted forest - Aberfan, Wales
Cormorant flight - Cardiff, Wales
Aberfforest waterfall - Pembrokeshire, Wales
Monk Nash - Nash Point, Wales
Bluebell woodland - Cardiff, Wales

To see more of my work, don't forget to visit my website at www.toothandclawphotography.com

You can also follow me on twitter and facebook.

Facebook - Cai Priestley Photography

Twitter - Cai Priestley

All photographs are available to purchase. Please send me a message via my website if you have any questions.

Thank you for reading,