We’ve seen some very rare occasions in the past, when bears have raided campsites, picnics, etc. and made their way into the beer stash – and got a little tipsy.
That’s about the extent of my knowledge of “bears getting drunk.”
However, I was today years old when I learned that there is an ongoing issue where grizzly bears have been getting drunk on fermented grain, and getting themselves hit by oncoming trains after stumbling out onto the tracks.
According to Cowboy State Daily,there have been 63 instances of this since 1980 along a section of railroad near Glacier National Park in Montana.
It mostly stems from railcars spilling out fermented grain, and the bears can’t move fast enough to outrun the trains.
Retired federal ecologist Chuck Neal told the outlet that the grain spilled from the railcars are a “tempting treat” for bears:
“The spilled grain actually ferments in place and becomes a de facto brewery.”
Although this isn’t really a problem for grizzlies at Yellowstone National Park, Neal said there isn’t enough being done at Glacier National Park to solve this problem.
He said that once these bears get “drunk” on the fermented grain, they can pass out right by or on the tracks, making them susceptible to getting hit.
“Other times they loiter on the tracks until a train approaches, at high speed, then drunkenly attempt to outrun the train — no can do — and are smashed.”
He also noted that the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) rail company isn’t doing enough to protect the bears as well:
“BNSF have been stalling doing anything for some years believing that the grizzly is going to be delisted (from endangered species status), another reason I am against delisting, and they plan that will give them an ‘incidental take’ permit from USFWS (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service).
As for what can be done, one idea that has been tossed around is to have some type of noise maker triggered as trains approach known ‘kill zones. Of course, if the bears are drunk, it is questionable how effective that would be.
Another idea is to not load the train cars so full, an idea that BNSF does not like. Another idea is not run the trains under certain weather conditions when derailment possibilities increase, an idea that BNSF also does not like. So right now, the last word that I have is that not much has been done at all and the bears continue to die.”