Scientists developing warning system to teach bears to avoid trains | 5/24/2017 | Staff
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Researchers at the University of Alberta are working on a warning system aimed at teaching grizzly bears that frequent railway tracks to get out of the way of oncoming trains.

The device uses a two-part system to detect an approaching train and deploy a warning consisting of a ringing bell and a flashing light—similar to signals used at railway crossings for people.

Trains - Trains - U - A - Biologist

"There are more trains, and these trains are traveling faster than ever before," explained U of A biologist Colleen Cassady St. Clair, who led a recent study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. "The possibility of collisions between wildlife and trains is increasing."

In Banff National Park, where train strikes are a leading cause of death for grizzlies, wildlife managers had hoped research could determine why bears use the train tracks and suggest ways to prevent it. Over the last eight years, St. Clair's research group determined that many factors attract bears, from spilled grain to concentrated deer and elk populations, to berries that grow near tracks, to the convenient corridor the tracks provide through the landscape.

Findings - Bears - Tracks

Their findings made it obvious that keeping bears off the tracks altogether would be extremely difficult.

For St. Clair, another thing became clear—it isn't possible to solve this problem without working with the bears themselves.

Issue - Tracks—it - Animals - Trains - Focus

"The issue isn't keeping wildlife away from the tracks—it is keeping animals from being struck by trains," she said. "So we wondered, what if we shifted focus? What if we tried to teach bears to avoid the trains themselves, giving them enough time to...
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