Railway mortality for several mammal species increases with train speed, proximity to water, and track curvature

Sci Rep. 2020 Nov 24;10(1):20476. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-77321-6.


Railways are a major source of direct mortality for many populations of large mammals, but they have been less studied or mitigated than roads. We evaluated temporal and spatial factors affecting mortality risk using 646 railway mortality incidents for 11 mammal species collected over 24 years throughout Banff and Yoho National Parks, Canada. We divided species into three guilds (bears, other carnivores, and ungulates), compared site attributes of topography, land cover, and train operation between mortality and paired random locations at four spatial scales, and described temporal patterns or mortality. Mortality risk increased across multiple guilds and spatial scales with maximum train speed and higher track curvature, both suggesting problems with train detection, and in areas with high proximity to and amount of water, both suggesting limitations to animal movement. Mortality risk was also correlated, but more varied among guilds and spatial scales, with shrub cover, topographic complexity, and proximity to sidings and roads. Seasonally, mortality rates were highest in winter for ungulates and other carnivores, and in late spring for bears, respectively. Our results suggest that effective mitigation could address train speed or detectability by wildlife, especially at sites with high track curvature that are near water or attractive habitat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / physiology*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Geography
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammals / physiology*
  • Railroads*
  • Water*


  • Water