Dispatches: wildlife photographers launch action campaign 

Photographers "not just going to take pictures anymore"


Several Canadian Rockies wildlife photographers are mad as hell and they're not going to just take pictures anymore.

For the sake of the small grizzly population of Banff National Park, it's time to speak up and take action, said John Marriott.

A professional photographer since the mid-1990s, Marriott shot a series of captivating images of a momma grizzly and her cubs just 36 hours before she was struck and killed by a train on the Canadian Pacific Railway tracks east of Lake Louise, Alberta on the night of May 28/29.

Infuriated and utterly heart-broken, Marriott unleashed his frustration in his blog.

"To say that I was devastated by the news would be to understate it," he wrote. "I got the call from Parks, five hours before the news was released to the media, and spent the next 24 hours in a state of shock, dismay, and anger, wondering how this continues to happen time and time again."

It's not just that yet another valuable member of Banff's approximately 60 grizzlies, one of three breeding females making their home in the Lake Louise area, was struck and killed by the CPR train, he said, but that Parks Canada's plan is to let the cubs fend for themselves in the hopes they manage to elude predators and to survive to adulthood.

"That is the big concern-the cubs. Parks' line about just sticking to the status quo and letting nature take its course, well that's not good enough," Marriott said. "It's fine and dandy to say let nature take its course, but nature doesn't have a big train mowing down your mother when you're a baby. That is definitely man stepping into nature. Parks has a zero success rate with that strategy."

Only a year old, the two cubs weigh about 50 pounds each. Parks Canada has been monitoring their movements daily, with resource conservation officers making noises in effort to keep them away from roads, cars and the railroad tracks. The cubs are feeding themselves well, foraging for grass and feasting on abundant dandelions.

But with no orphaned cubs of that premature age proven to have survived to adulthood after losing their mothers to cars or trains in past years, it's essential, Marriott argues, that Parks develop a more active strategy for the next orphaned cubs-a situation that's inevitable.

To help spur that process, Marriott and fellow wildlife photographers Cai Priestley and Brandon T. Brown have joined forces in launching a letter writing campaign to urge Parks Canada, regional MP Blake Richards, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and CPR to take immediate and meaningful action to protect Canada's wildlife within the boundaries of the very national parks-and UNESCO World Heritage Site-where they are supposed to be protected.


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