When a grizzly bear saunters through a pipeline right-of-way (RoW), what does it do? Does it avoid the area, or does it prefer it? Does it use the area for feeding, or travel or anything else?
Those are the questions that Mike Wilfley on TransCanada’s environment team has been monitoring for several years as part of our involvement with a Foothills Research Institute (FRI) study.
While study of grizzly bears led by FRI has spanned over 16 years, the past few years have focused more specifically on grizzly bear response to unique linear features, like pipeline RoW’s.
“The objectives of this specific study were to summarize what has been learned in terms of how these bears interact with RoW’s and if they’re influenced by the food and landscape they find there,” says Wilfley, a biologist with 21 years’ experience studying flora and fauna in the field who joined TransCanada two years ago.
“In particular, it puts years of observation into a context that helps us plan our projects.”
The study was conducted in the Kakwa region of west-central Alberta and revealed several interesting conclusions.
Please pass the ants
For example, regarding increased predatory activity of grizzly bears, the study didn’t find conclusive evidence that grizzlies use the RoW to hunt for fauna – unless you count ants, that is.
Overall, grizzly bears appeared to prefer RoW’s with between two and seven years of regrowth because some of their favourite food sources are more plentiful there – including dandelion, clover and, most of all, ants.
“A bear can spend a long time sitting and eating an ant hill,” says Wilfley, adding that those things that draw grizzlies to RoW’s can also result in higher poaching and hunting activities by humans.
“Line of sight is a big issue in terms of poachers. But it turns out that at
150 metres away from a crossroad, a bear is no longer visible from the road.
“This is important for our planning. If we can leave a screen of vegetation near those crossings, poaching will be reduced since the bears won’t be seen.”
RoW use decreases over time
The study also concluded that the probability of grizzlies using pipeline RoW’s decreased as time progressed and vegetation grew in. Seven years after a pipeline is in place, bears won’t behave differently than they do in the surrounding area.
Like our ongoing investment into the FRI grizzly bear study, TransCanada continues to invest in research that aligns with the company’s commitment to environmental stewardship, protection and performance.
These studies help inform TransCanada’s planning process and have an overall benefit to the work that we do in terms of avoiding or minimizing the impacts of our business activities on biodiversity.
“This isn’t all over the front page of every newspaper,” says Wilfley. “This is something we do because we really are committed to doing what’s right. And that’s what I like about working at TransCanada.
“We’re definitely going above and beyond. We have a social conscience about environmental issues and focus on being responsible corporate citizens.
“We try within our means to do things that are helpful for the environment and avoid or minimize our impact wherever possible.”
TransCanada recognized for leadership in R&D
Research and development continues to be an area of focus for TransCanada. In 2014, TransCanada landed a spot on Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders List by Research Infosource, Canada’s source of R&D Intelligence.
Focusing our R&D dollars on improving efficiency is a way the company has invested in the long-term sustainability of our operations. It is the leading-edge, collaborative technology development, together with shared industry learnings and best practices that will provide the tools to make informed business decisions.