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Nakoda the grizzly and cars on highway
John E. Marriott Photography

National Park Grizzly Fatalities Spark Urgent Calls for Wildlife Summit

John E. Marriott, a prominent wildlife advocate, emphasizes the need for a summit to ensure the sustainability of grizzly populations in Yoho National Park following recent fatalities

In a troubling series of events, four grizzly bears, including a rare white grizzly known as Nakoda and her two cubs, perished on the Trans-Canada Highway in Yoho National Park within just four days in early June. 

This sequence of fatalities has sparked calls for Parks Canada to organize a wildlife summit to address road safety and habitat measures for the national parks’ wildlife populations.

John E. Marriott, a well-known wildlife advocate and photographer, emphasized the urgent need for such a summit. 

“A wildlife summit can discuss many issues, and one of the core issues has to be how do we make sure that the Lake Louise grizzly bear population becomes a source for grizzly bears again and not a sink population,” Marriott stated in a Facebook post. 

He highlighted the migration of grizzlies into Lake Louise from neighbouring British Columbia yet stressed that more needs to be done to ensure the sustainability of wildlife in the Rockies national parks.

The tragic incidents began with the death of Nakoda and her cubs on a fenced section of the highway, notorious for its 90-km/h speed limit. 

Despite the fencing, which includes electrified sections intended to deter wildlife from entering the roadway, Nakoda and her cubs managed to find a breach in the barrier. 

Shortly after her cubs were struck and killed, Nakoda herself was hit by a vehicle. She was later found deceased in the forest after her GPS collar emitted a mortality signal.

An older male grizzly was the next victim, hit near Field, B.C., on an unfenced part of the highway. 

Marriott said, “Nakoda is the sixth known breeding female to die in that [Lake Louise] field unit since 2020 and the 14th recorded grizzly to die at the hands of humans in the mountain parks (Banff-Yoho-Jasper-Kootenay) since 2019.”

Nakoda the grizzly running across the highway in front of a transport truck | John E. Marriott
Nakoda running across the highway | John E. Marriott Photography

Time for Action

In response to these events, the Exposed Wildlife Conservancy, which Marriott is a co-founder of, has initiated an online campaign urging a comprehensive wildlife summit. 

Their proposal includes discussions on mitigation strategies with various stakeholders, including independent biologists, conservation groups, the general public, Transport Canada, the Canadian Pacific Kansas City Railway, and Parks Canada.

Key suggestions for improving safety include enforcing lower speed limits and establishing no-stopping zones during specific times of the year on the Trans-Canada Highway and other roads within the mountain parks. 

Marriott also proposed the idea of more impactful signage to raise awareness, similar to those in construction zones that personalize the message. Potentially, the signage would feature bear cubs with captions like “my mother got killed here” to capture drivers’ attention.

Moreover, Marriott calls for increased federal funding to extend highway fencing and build wildlife crossing structures throughout unfenced areas of Yoho National Park.

Things You Can Do

In a Facebook post, John Marriott stated that “there are two key things you can do RIGHT NOW to help put pressure on our federal government and Parks Canada to step up grizzly bear conservation. The first is as easy as it gets: a Sign & Send email letter that goes straight to the people it needs to get to (the Environment Minister, the head of Parks Canada, and the two Banff unit superintendents), which has recommendations of things to do in the future.”

Marriott hopes to get at least 3000 people to sign the email letter, and as of June 26, the letter has 1988 signatures.

Marriott also stressed the importance of filling out Parks Canada’s Let’s Talk Mountain Parks survey, which asks visitors to voice their opinions on conservation and visitation.

Finally, you can support the Exposed Wildlife Conservancy, which advocates for apex predators like grizzly bears throughout Western Canada.

The push for change after Nakoda’s death underscores a broader concern over wildlife’s ongoing challenges in our busy national parks. 

The recent deaths serve as a poignant reminder of the need for continued and enhanced efforts to ensure the safety and preservation of these animals within their natural habitats.

Nakoda and her sibling who was also killed in a highway accident | John E. Marriott Photography
Nakoda and her sibling who was also killed in a highway accident | John E. Marriott Photography

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