Train kills mother grizzly bear, then another kills her 2 cubs, Montana officials say

A grizzly bear family was grazing along train tracks in western Montana earlier this month when all three of them were killed by two trains, state officials said.

The first train struck the 232-pound mother grizzly two miles east of Marias Pass just before 4:20 a.m. on June 6, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials.

Later that day, a second train passing through Glacier County hit the mother bear’s two yearlings at the same spot, officials said in a Monday news release on the incident. Each of the young male bears weighed about 65 pounds.

Almost 20 years ago, the mother bear had been captured during a research project at Glacier National Park, which is near the site of the collision, wildlife officials said.

Investigators looked into the deaths, but there was nothing at the site of the deadly collision “that would have drawn the bears to the tracks,” according to state officials said.

Officials added that they have “worked with agencies and railroad companies over the years to minimize grizzly bear mortalities along travel routes.”

Train-related bear deaths have occurred in the area for years, especially in the 1980s and 1990s following derailments that left behind grain that drew bears to the tracks, according to the Flathead Beacon. The outlet reports that two male bears were hit and killed by trains last year in the state.

There are more than 1,000 grizzly bears in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem, according to Montana officials. The ecosystem is “a designated grizzly bear recovery zone that spans Glacier National Park, parts of the Flathead and Blackfeet Indian Reservations, parts of five national forests and a significant amount of state and private lands,” state officials said.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.