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Bears in the Mountain National Parks

Management in Action

Research

Managing protected areas in a changing world is challenging and complex. Canada’s mountain national parks have long been at the forefront of research, involvement and innovation to rethink the way people interact with landscapes, sharing these places with the world and yet ensuring that they remain unimpaired for future generations.

Projects  |  Monitoring  |  Reports 

Setting up a remote camera to monitor a diversionary feeding site © Parks Canada / D. Rafla
Setting up a remote camera to monitor a diversionary feeding site

Projects

Canadian Pacific Railway

Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific have committed to a deeper understanding of the root-causes of bear-train collisions and developing solutions to discourage bears from using high-mortality risk zones. A number of promising solutions are being tested, including a grizzly bear GPS collaring and monitoring program, and sight-line and sound-line improvements through vegetation management.

Parks Canada and Canadian Pacific are also investigating an off-site test area to evaluate fence closure alternatives to assess what infrastructure is needed to stop bears from accessing the railway corridor. Should this option prove feasible, it will be subject to an environmental assessment.

These proposed solutions are components of a larger, five-year Joint Action Plan aimed at reducing grizzly bear mortality on the rail line in Banff and Yoho national parks.

Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project

The Eastern Slopes Grizzly Bear Project (1994-2002) addressed the urgent need for scientific information about the cumulative effects of human development and activities on grizzly bears on the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in Alberta. The final report was published in 2005.

West Slopes Bear Research Project

The West Slopes Bear Research Project (1994-1999) investigated several major questions concerning the status of grizzly bears and black bears in the Yoho-Golden-Glacier area of British Columbia.

Foothills Research Institute

The Foothills Model Forest Grizzly Bear Research Program was created in 1999 to provide knowledge and planning tools to land and resource managers to ensure the long-term conservation of grizzly bears in Alberta. Key to its efforts are sound scientific field research, practical results, and a large-scale or “landscape level” approach toward grizzly bear conservation.


Monitoring

  1. A monitoring strategy using GPS collars to understand how grizzly bears use habitat in the Bow Valley of Banff National Park began in spring 2012. 
  2. Parks Canada, in cooperation with the University of Montana, is evaluating two different tools for grizzly bear monitoring: remote cameras and DNA-analysis of hair collected from rub trees. The objective is to learn more about the status and trend of grizzly bear populations. Motion-activated cameras are in place in frontcountry and backcountry locations in Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Kootenay and Waterton Lakes National Parks. Check out the Wild Images section of the Banff and Waterton Lakes park websites.
  3. Parks Canada is a global leader in road ecology and has supported monitoring of wildlife crossing structures in Banff National Park every year since 1996, the longest year-round highway wildlife monitoring program in the world. Parks Canada recently contributed $1 million to support a long-term collaborative wildlife research project based in Banff National Park. For more: www.HighwayWilding.org 
  4. As part of the Highway 93 South Wildlife Crossing Project in Kootenay National Park, wildlife use along two sections of the highway is being monitored prior to the start of the first phase of mitigation work (fencing and wildlife crossing structures near Dolly Varden) beginning in 2012. This data will be compared to monitoring information collected after the mitigations are in place to see how patterns of roadside animal occurrences change when fences and crossing structures are present. 
  5. Parks Canada staff drive along the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park every two weeks recording wildlife sightings. These locations are cross-referenced with wildlife mortality databases to pinpoint highway “hotspots” for wildlife. This monitoring provides vital information on where animals have a natural tendency to want to cross the road—
    statistics that will be invaluable in determining the design and placement of wildlife crossing structures and fencing in the event of future highway twinning. 
  6. Grain spill monitoring on the CN railway is in its fourth year in Jasper National Park. 
  7. Grizzly bear habitat security modelling in Jasper National Park assesses grizzly bear habitat by analyzing the quality of habitat versus human use impacts in the backcountry.


Reports

1 . Huisjer, M. P. , Begley, J.S., and van der Grift E.A. 2012, March 21. Mortality and live observations of wildlife on and along the Yellowhead Highway and the railroad through Jasper National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park, Canada. [ s.l. ] A report prepared for: Salmo Consulting Inc. on behalf of Kinder Morgan Canada, Trans Mountain Legacy Fund Steering Committee. Contract number and report number: 4W3419. xv, 365 p. [ 380 p. ].

Summary

  • This report analyzes wildlife mortality rates on roads and rail dating back to the 1950s and proposes various mitigations.

A digital copy of the report is available on the Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University website: www.westerntransportationinstitute.org/

2 . The 2010 management plans for Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho National Parks identify grizzly bears as an indicator species for the assessment of ecological integrity.