Parks goes high tech with bears
Eleven grizzly bears have been fitted with GPS collars as part of a research project aimed at preventing bears from being killed on the train tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks.
The federal agency concluded a seven-week collaring portion of the program last Thursday (June 28), ending up with GPS collars on five male grizzlies and six adult female grizzlies, all with cubs in tow.
In addition, another five young bears were caught, but the growing bears were too small to fit with GPS collars so they were given small ear transmitters instead.
Tom Hurd, a wildlife biologist for Banff National Park, said the capture program – which used free-range darting and culvert traps to capture bears for collaring – met its target of 10 to 12 bears.
“It was successful in that it was completed without incident. The bears were captured ranging from Kicking Horse Pass in Yoho through to the east gate of Banff park,” he said.
“It’s a good distribution of bears to allow us to look at railway effects and how bears are moving in and around the railway and how mitigations might prevent bear mortality.”
Parks Canada proposed the grizzly bear collaring and monitoring program following the Parks Canada-Canadian Pacific Railway symposium in Banff last September. The symposium aimed at dealing with bear mortality on the tracks.
Train tracks are the single biggest killer of grizzly bears in the mountain parks. Eleven grizzly bears have died on the railway line in Banff since 2000, including nine since 2005.
Hurd said Parks Canada identified the need for finer scale data concerning grizzly bear movement to deal with issues of grizzly bear mortality on the railway line.
“It’s also going to be used for other fine-scale spatial and temporal movements of when bears come into wildlife corridors near townsites, and help us understand how they’re using the Bow Valley Parkway area,” he said.
The six females captured and collared all had cubs, ranging in litter sizes of one to three. There were nine cubs in total.
Hurd said the collars on the 11 bears are typically set at two-hour intervals to send positions, but that can be changed to 20-minute intervals if the bears get closer to townsites or the railway.
“All the collars seem to be functioning well and communicating with satellites as expected,” he said.
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