The high powered lights of a train reflect off the tracks as it travels through Banff National Park. This image is likely what the two grizzly cubs observed just before being hit. I took this photo in an effort to replicate what an animal might see when a train is approaching at night. While you would think the sound would be enough to displace the animals off the tracks, the blinding lights conceal the hundreds of tonnes of steel hurtling down the tracks towards them and the animals would not be able to recognize the size of what was approaching. Apex predators such as bears and wolves have very little to fear in their natural ecosystems and as such they often stand their ground to defend themselves. In fact, bears and particularly mothers with cubs, have been known to charge at the trains to try to scare them off.  If they did try to run, they usually stick to the path of least resistance.  With the headlights only highlighting the tracks directly in front of the train and not much of the surrounding terrain, the animal’s eyes would not be able to adjust and pick up escape routes along the tracts. Instead they tend to run along them in an attempt to escape. The trains move about 60km/hr through the park. At that speed, no animal will be able to outrun them, the conductor doesn’t have enough time to slow the train down, and so invariably they are run down. In rare instances, some animals have survived train strikes. Just this past winter, a juvenile wolf attempted to outrun the train, was clipped and flung into the air. It landed in some hard snow just a few inches away from the rail cars. Remarkably, the following day I watched it walking along a river bed with no obvious injuries.

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