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Advocates call for action after recent deaths of 4 grizzly bears in Yoho National Park

Click to play video: 'Bear advocates call for summit after deaths of multiple grizzly bears'
Bear advocates call for summit after deaths of multiple grizzly bears
WATCH There's a push from a group of wildlife advocates to come up with ways to mitigate animal deaths on highways. As Jayme Doll reports, Parks Canada says it’s already conducting a study on speed. – Jun 20, 2024

Wildlife advocates have called on the federal government to take action, following the recent deaths of four grizzly bears in just one week along the same stretch of highway in B.C.’s Yoho National Park.

The rare white grizzly bear, Nakoda, and her two cubs died after being hit by vehicles in separate incidents along the Trans-Canada Highway on June 6.

Parks Canada said a male grizzly bear was also killed along an unfenced section of the highway near Field on June 9.

The famous white grizzly bear, known as Nakoda, was found dead, two days after being injured in a vehicle collision in Yoho National Park in B.C. Courtesy: Jason Leo Bantle

The deaths have caused great distress among wildlife advocates.

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“The response has been a lot of frustration expressed by people and you can’t really blame them. This is suppose to be our flagship national park,” said John Marriott from Exposed Wildlife Conservancy.

“Grizzly bears are a threatened species, so to lose a childbearing age female and then two cubs and a male, that’s a lot in one week,” added Wildsmart’s Nick de Ruyter.

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Parks Canada said it had staff monitoring the bears around the clock, and implemented a list of measures including reduced speed zones. But despite its efforts, it was unable to save them from traffic on the highway.

Advocates believe it’s going to take an ever bigger push to tackle a growing issue.

“We can’t just continue to put five million visitors into Banff National Park, without a better visitor management plan that brings back the real mandate of the park, which is to protect ecological integrity,” said Marriot.

“We think there should be a summit to start to look at what other mitigations measures can be done and put some pressure on the federal government to start taking action here.”

Click to play video: '‘Devastating’ death of rare white grizzly bear, cubs prompts calls for change'
‘Devastating’ death of rare white grizzly bear, cubs prompts calls for change

Parks Canada runs a bear guardian program, which deals with bear-related traffic issues, but the teams in Lake Louise and Yoho National Park were recently disbanded. A team remains in Banff, where it educates visitors about wildlife.

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To help prevent animals from being hit by vehicles, extra wildlife overpasses are being built in Alberta. This week the provincial government announced six new crossings on Highway 1A between Calgary and Canmore, and on Highway 3 in the Crowsnest Pass area.

“Hitting an animal has a high cost to society from insurance, injury or death, cleanup, the loss of the value of the animal on the landscape. Usually these structures pay for themselves over time because we do have a lot of animals being hit,” said Tim Johnson from the Yellowstone to Yukon Conservation Initiative.

Banff and Yoho national parks have the most extensive network of wildlife crossing structures in the world, according to Parks Canada.

Nakoda, the white grizzly bear, spotted climbing a wildlife fence. Courtesy: Jason Leo Bantle

But de Ruyter said bears are still able to find ways to get near vehicles on the highway.

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“If there is an attractant like green grass and dandelions they are going to do whatever they can to get to it.”

Parks Canada said it’s currently conducting a study looking at speed limit reductions to reduce animal strikes, and prevent further tragedies.

 

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