As grizzly bear train mortalities spike, BNSF mitigation funds are years overdue

On Sept. 18, Justine Vallieres was setting traps to capture a pair of food-conditioned grizzly bears breaking into cabins up the North Fork when she got word that a third bear, also a grizzly, had been killed on the train tracks near Stryker, clear across the Whitefish Range. As the wildlife conflict management specialist for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) in northwest Montana, Vallieres remembers it as one of countless instances she wishes she could have been in two places at once.

Lacking that superpower, the bear biologist hopped into her government pickup truck and drove two hours over the mountain pass to the site of the train strike, where she found a dead 25-year-old male grizzly and set to work documenting the federally protected bear’s death.

A grizzly bear in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem seen on Sept. 12, 2021. 

Hunter D’Antuono, Flathead Beacon

“We get stretched thin,” Vallieres said. “Up here in northwest Montana, we have the highest density of bear-human conflicts in the state, and we’re putting in 60- to 80-hour work weeks responding to them. So

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