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Glacier train

A train hauls oil into Glacier National Park near the Badger-Two Medicine National Forest in northwest Montana in 2013. 

Freight and passenger trains killed three grizzly bears in two incidents along the southern border of Glacier National Park earlier this month.

One of the bears was a 21-year-old, 232-pound female that had once been captured during a 2000 National Park Service research program but not seen again. She was struck by a BNSF freight train about 2 miles east of Marias Pass before dawn on June 6. Her two 65-pound male yearlings were killed by an Amtrak train at the same location.

“It was along a section where grass is growing near the tracks,” said Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks spokesman Dillon Tabish. “There weren’t any derailments or other attractants in the area.”

In the 1980s, a stretch of track west of Marias Pass became a frequent grizzly conflict site after several railcars of grain derailed. Grizzly bears get a large portion of their diets from vegetation, and often graze new grass and other plants.

The deaths bring to 14 the number of grizzlies known to have died this year in the Northern Continental Divide, which extends from the Canadian border through Glacier National Park and the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex south nearly to Missoula. Five were killed after getting into cattle, chickens or sheep. One was shot by someone defending livestock. Cars hit two, one died during a capture operation and one was euthanized after becoming habituated to human food. One died of natural causes.

About 1,000 grizzlies inhabit the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem.

For information about grizzly bears, visit http://fwp.mt.gov/fishAndWildlife/species/grizzlyBear/. Residents can call FWP regional offices to learn more about bears or to report bear activity. In northwest Montana, call 406-752-5501.

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Natural Resources & Environment Reporter

Natural Resources Reporter for The Missoulian.