Back to News

Railroad sued over grizzly bear deaths in Montana

Railroad sued over grizzly bear deaths in Montana

Photo credit: Shutterstock

If grizzly bears congregate near railroad tracks and are killed by trains, is the railway company to blame? Yes, according to an impending lawsuit targeting the BNSF Railway Company (BNSF). The group Wildlife Guardians plans to sue BNSF due to its “negligently killing” of federally protected grizzly bears near Glacier National Park in Montana, National Parks Traveler reports.

“While Burlington Northern has twiddled its thumbs for 15 years rather than taking essential measures to protect grizzly bears, trains have killed dozens of grizzlies, including at least four cubs,” said Sarah McMillan, conservation director at WildEarth Guardians. 

BNSF was notified of the groups “intent to sue” in October following the deaths of two bear cubs that were killed by a train near Marias Pass, south of Glacier National Park. Wildlife Guardians say that five grizzly bears were “killed by ‘railway activities’ near East Glacier in October” when a train killed a cow, “which then attracted five bears to the tracks,” according to National Parks Traveler. Additionally, the group stated in a press release that five separate incidents resulted in the grizzly bear deaths: two by train collisions; three by cars on Highway 2.

Shop article bar

Further, “according to the best available data,” WildEarth Guardians says that trains “killed or contributed to the deaths of approximately 52 grizzly bears” within the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem between 1980 and 2018.

The railways are used hourly by BNSF and trains average 35 mph. BNSF told The Associated Press that workers do clean up “carrion and spilled grain…from the tracks” because it can attract bears, according to National Parks Traveler

“The 67-mile stretch of railway between West Glacier and Browning is where trains reportedly killed 29 grizzlies between 1980 and 2002,” said Pete Frost, attorney at the Western Environmental Law Center on behalf of WildEarth Guardians. “Slowing the trains down, ensuring carrion are promptly cleared from tracks, and perhaps scheduling trains to run during the day and not at feeding time might reduce trains killing grizzlies.”

“The deaths of these grizzly bears and cubs was entirely preventable and there is no excuse for Burlington Northern’s continued failure to safeguard the railroad from these lethal collisions,” said Josh Osher, Montana Director for Western Watersheds Project. “Whether it’s a lack of concern, laziness or just plain greed, it’s time for BNSF to be held accountable and to take immediate steps to stop further killings.”


Log in or register to post comments.

Aaron D. - posted 6 months ago on 12-03-2019 02:05:02 pm

Another lawsuit that will waste the courts time and money, which is our tax dollars that would be better spent elsewhere. All of these wildlife defense groups would be better off spending the money that is donated to them wrapping trains, cars and whatever else they feel kills animal in bubble wrap.

richard S. - posted 6 months ago on 11-12-2019 07:24:25 pm
Portland, OR

According to the article 52 grizzlies were killed by trains between 1980 and 2018. That’s 52 bears dead in 38 years. That averages out to 1.3 griz dead due to train collisions per year. And I just googled the grizzly bear population of glacier national park and the first site with info stated the population to be approximately 300 plus. That’s less than 1% of the population. According to research in 1980 within the park was 240. I’d say the griz aren’t in any More danger from trains than themselves. Adult boars kill more cubs in a year than the trains do.

rodney t. - posted 6 months ago on 11-12-2019 05:54:42 pm

If you will line up every grizzly in Montana and let that train mow them all down i will come hunt there again!!!!

JAMES R. - posted 6 months ago on 11-11-2019 07:22:39 am

Never ceases to amaze me the money that will be wasted as a result of these enviro wackadoodles lawsuits!!! Next thing they'll be suing people who kill deer on the highways, because we were driving to fast or driving during feeding times!

Lets stop all traffic, be it planes, trains, or automobiles, because we all know there's a chance we could kill a bird, bear, or some other form of wildlife!

The problem is there are to many bears in the area, not a problem with the trains!

Jordan Z. - posted 6 months ago on 11-10-2019 07:18:56 am
Camp Point IL

I wonder if they receive money for the lawsuit if they will pocket it for themselves or put the money toward conservation? ex... Helping grizzly bears with habitat/ funding biologist studies/ investing in wildlife crossings...?

charlie b. - posted 6 months ago on 11-09-2019 07:56:58 pm

Let them coastal condo dwellers go out there & educate them grizz.

Bendrix B. - posted 6 months ago on 11-09-2019 08:53:09 am
Rochester, MA

If you despise yourself and mankind, then you’ll try to dismantle all Man’s works. Slow the trains down enough and it won’t be worth running them. Tax energy production enough and there won’t be any. These people are sick. They just want to bomb us all back to the stone age and its our legal system they are abusing to do it.

Arron J. - posted 6 months ago on 11-09-2019 06:50:48 am

Guess whose court this will magically end up in? I'll say this though, if the WGs think they play the long game legally, they need to check their history. There are only a handful of organizations that play the 100-200 year-long game, and the railroads are in that very limited group. If you want an organization with the muscle to change law, the WGs just poked the bear.

Tyson C. - posted 6 months ago on 11-09-2019 04:15:53 am
Lincoln, NH

Delist them and disbar dana christensen.

Jeff B. - posted 6 months ago on 11-09-2019 01:56:54 am

This is... absurd. As a farmer I'm no fan of BNSF, but come on. There's way too many bears in that area, and the tracks and highways make travel corridors at certain times of year especially. You going to not run trains half the day to save a few bears? Now you're talking about disrupting huge chunks of commerce to provide a solution to something that's an unfixable problem.

Jesse S. - posted 6 months ago on 11-08-2019 02:31:07 pm

What a joke

Earl G. - posted 6 months ago on 11-08-2019 02:28:03 pm

Need more ridiculous lawsuits like this to bring attention to the weponization Endangered Species Act. It is beyond time to update the ESA to allow real management of wildlife.

Michael E. - posted 6 months ago on 11-08-2019 12:27:05 pm
Camas, Washington

"WildEarth Guardians"...are they friends with Iron Man and Thor?

Kevin H. - posted 6 months ago on 11-08-2019 10:33:03 am
Springfield, OR

Maybe,, Just Maybe,, there are too many bears in the area and they are getting killed more due to higher numbers.

Eric G. - posted 6 months ago on 11-08-2019 07:31:29 am
North jackson ohio

This is ridiculous. You can’t stop a train on a dime. Nor can you patrol the tracks 24/7 cleaning every little spec of the tracks. Some people just lack common sense. What if the grizzly runs out in front of a semi truck and gets killed. Is the truck driver at fault. Or is he suppose to swerve and possibly get killed him self or kill a family in a vehicle next to him.