The news has been full of reports of livestock kills on the Rocky Mountain Front over the last several weeks, and scores of ranchers have been scrambling to keep their herds safe.
Thankfully, our local “government trapper” Mike Hoggan, USDA Wildlife Services, has been working tirelessly to catch the bear that has been on a killing spree west of Dupuyer, and now our herds are safer and we can all breathe a sigh of relief – for now.
Fortunately for these ranchers that suffered losses, verified and probable livestock kills by grizzlies and wolves are reimbursed by the State of Montana’s Livestock Loss Board, which means the majority of these ranchers will be reimbursed for market value of their livestock.
Unfortunately, the damage this bear did goes much deeper than the pocketbook. This bear didn’t just eat some beef worth somewhere around $1.50/pound. This bear killed and ate a grown cow, which means a loss of not just that animal, but also the calf inside her, as well as turning the calf at her side into an orphan. This led to the calf not gaining as it should, and coming in small at shipping time means more loss for the rancher. The Livestock Loss Board doesn’t cover those losses.
The same goes for the 10 heifer calves that were killed west of Dupuyer. Those were replacement heifers for a registered herd, valued at around $100,000. Again, it’s not just the monetary loss these ranchers are facing. They’re now short 10 replacements, which means future losses for the rancher due to decreased herd size.
Another factor to consider when looking at these death losses due to bears is herd health and well-being. If cows and calves are being preyed upon continuously, their stress levels are higher, which means they’re not eating as much as they should, which means the calves aren’t gaining and the pregnant cows are not getting the nutrition they need. High stress levels in cows also leads to abortion, which again means more losses for the ranchers.
All of the ranchers that had losses this fall have dealt with bears for years, and are constantly working as hard as they can to coexist with grizzlies, but the fact of the matter is there are just too many bears. These bears have learned that humans provide many excellent food sources – beef, mutton, grain, peas, etc., and these food sources are readily available. As bears become more accustomed to being around people and ranches, they get more dangerous. They also pass these learned behaviors down to their offspring, who then begin life with no fear of humans, and that’s when things really get scary.
It is time to get these grizzlies delisted so they can be better and more strictly managed in order to avoid conflicts, especially rampant killing sprees like we witnessed this fall. The only way to get this message across is to make our voices heard – not only locally, but state and nationwide. Write to your congressmen, your senators, Ryan Zinke. Show up for Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem Subcommittee meetings and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee meetings. Represent the facts. Share your story. We cannot win this fight by being silent.
Until next time,