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|
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
and to our local MP, Mr Blake Richards at: email@example.com
as well as the federal Minister of the Environment, Peter Kent at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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!
(The statistic in this post were taken from Peter Dettling's website at www.terramagica.ca)