Plan to curb track deaths lets BNSF kill up to 18 bears

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — BNSF Railway has proposed a plan to curb the train-related deaths of grizzly bears that allows trains to kill up to 18 grizzly bears over seven years on the tracks it operates in Montana.

In return, the railway will execute a habitat conservation plan to reduce such deaths, BNSF Railway said in an announcement on Monday.

That plan would include requiring employees to more quickly clear tracks of any spilled grain, animal carcasses or other things that might draw in bears; increased inspections of grain hopper cars for leaks; adjusting train travel times to avoid twilight hours, when bears often feed; and putting lights and whistles on trestles where bears cannot easily escape, the Missoulian reported.

In 2019, trains were responsible for the deaths of eight grizzlies on the 207 miles (333 kilometers) of track between Trego and Shelby. That year, a train hit and killed a cow, whose carcass then attracted at least five hungry grizzly bears. Two of those bears died in train collisions and three more were killed by U.S. Route 2 drivers near the tracks.

A 30-day public comment period for the proposed plan began on Tuesday.