Western Watersheds Project

The last two years have been the deadliest on record for grizzlies in and around Glacier National Park. There have been at least 48 grizzly mortalities this year in the area, called the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE). As grizzly mortalities mount, bear managers in northwest Montana are trying to tackle the sources of rising deaths.

Conservation groups announced Monday that they sent a letter to BNSF Railway threatening a lawsuit over grizzly bears killed along its train tracks. So far this year, a record eight grizzlies from the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) have been killed by trains.

Grizzly bears in the Lower 48 are protected as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. It’s illegal to kill them, even if it’s an accident.

A coyote hunts for small mammals in the tall grass, October 2008.
Vince O'Sullivan/FLICKR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

About a dozen states – including Montana and Wyoming – are allowed to use a controversial device called the M-44. Advocates say it’s an important tool to protect sheep from coyotes. Critics call it a ‘cyanide bomb’ and say it’s too risky for humans and pets. Now, several environmental groups are pushing to ban them at the state and federal level.

Environmental groups want to stop sheep grazing on public lands in the region. The issue is playing out in the courts in Idaho and Montana.