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Watch: The Alarming Trend of Bears on Train Tracks

bear train
Image generated by Amy King using Midjourney

“The Boss” is a massive grizzly bear and inhabitant of Banff National Park who is notorious for having been hit by a train and survived. But why was he on the tracks in the first place? 

Between 2008 and 2023, 63 bears were killed by trains on the BNSF Railway alone, which is the largest freight railroad in the USA. This phenomenon has become increasingly concerning for conservationists and wildlife rangers alike. 

Read to the end to watch the video!

The Boss Bear

brown bear
Grizzly Bear (Ursus arctos horribilis). Image by Frank Vassen on Wikimedia Commons

First off, who is the notorious “The Boss?”

Also known as Banff Bear 122, this grizzly weighs an estimated 650-700 lbs (290-320 kg), which is much greater than the male grizzly average of 600 lbs (270 kg). He first made headlines after having survived a collision with a train, then again when he was spotted cannibalizing the remains of a black bear. Furthermore, DNA testing by Banff National Park wildlife officials has revealed that The Boss has fathered at least five cubs in his area.  

Perhaps the Rambo of bears, this grizzly is most certainly an anomaly. Unfortunately, not all bears have shared the same fate as The Boss.   

Why Are Bears On The Railway Tracks?

bear train
Image by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič via Unsplash

Professor Colleen Cassady St. Clair of the University of Alberta in Canada led the research into why bears are dying by rail. Based on her research, several conclusions have been made:  

Bears are often attracted to railway tracks due to various food sources available in these areas. Spilled grain from cargo trains, palatable plants, and ungulates who have also been killed by trains attract hungry bears. 

There is some evidence that the recent increase in the local wolf population has caused greater competition for food between predator species. Thus, bears are driven to search for food in more dangerous areas, such as along the train tracks. 

Keeping in mind that the train tracks run through the animals’ natural habitat, some bears may have been killed after simply trying to cross the tracks.

grizzly bear
Bear in yellow forest. Image by OndrejProsicky via Depositphotos

The Grizzly Bear Conservation Initiative, a joint effort by Canadian Pacific and Parks Canada, has undertaken several measures to address this issue. A particularly effective measure has been the retrofitting and replacing of hopper cars to reduce grain spillage.

Additionally, inventions like rail-mounted warning systems, which work similarly to crossing signals for pedestrians, have been introduced. These systems warn animals to vacate the rails several seconds earlier than otherwise, potentially preventing a “deer-in-headlights” response.


YouTube video
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Despite the incredible nature of The Boss’s story, it serves to remind us of the threat humans pose to animals, even in their natural habitats. Hopefully conservation efforts are successful in allowing animals to better live undisturbed by human activity.

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