Example In the spotlight- Grizzly 781: During 2006, grizzly 781 was born in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). On June 11, 2009, at three-years old, 781 was captured, near Deadman Creek in the Shoshone National Forest (SNF). Grizzly 781 was not collared during this capture. Five-years would pass until he would again be captured, this time for management purposes. Unfortunately, the bear found himself in a far too common predicament: livestock depredation. Nearly 90 miles away from where he was initially captured in 2009, Grizzly 781 was the culprit of a cow mortality near Red Lodge, MT. He was captured and collared at Grove Creek, MT by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and U.S. Department of Agriculture - Wildlife Services on July 15, 2014. He was relocated and released near Lodgepole Creek, MT near the Gallatin Range. Grizzly 781 cast his collar in September 2014 in the Gallatin National Forest. In 2018, grizzly 781 would be 12 years-old.
The real question is: How can we prevent livestock depredation and avoid unnecessary grizzly bear mortality related to livestock grazing operations? What can we learn from grizzly 781 and other bears involved in livestock depredation?
Livestock Conflict and Mortality: “Identifying the locations and causes of grizzly bear mortality is another key component in understanding the dynamics of this population. Over 80% of all documented bear mortalities are human-caused. Tracking human-caused bear deaths helps define patterns and trends that can direct management programs designed to reduce bear mortality.” – Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST)
Between the years 2012 and 2016, a total of 459 livestock conflicts with grizzly bears were documented and related to commercial livestock grazing on federal lands in the GYE. During these years, 22 of the 459 conflicts on federal lands resulted in grizzly bear mortality, which means 5% of these conflicts proved to be fatal for the bear involved. Over the 4-year span, the IGBST recorded a total 232 mortalities from all causes (natural, roadkill, defense of life and property, livestock conflict & depredation, etc.) Livestock related mortalities related to commercial livestock grazing on federal lands account for 9% of total mortality during 2012-2016.
With over 80% of all documented mortalities resulting from us humans, it is important to find potential ways to mitigate and avoid grizzly bear conflict. Whether that is the deployment or implementation of electric fences, range riders, or even the easy implementation of bear spray for hunters and recreationalists, finding areas where mortality can be reduced is important.
Livestock grazing operations have several options to prevent depredation or conflict with grizzly bears. In operations where rearing may occur, animals that give birth, must be securely confined, housed, and protected to reduce risk of bear attraction. The removal of all afterbirth and carcass materials is especially important. Electric barriers around confined livestock units are strongly encouraged for deterring bears. Fencing is an important component while protecting livestock. The implementation of electric wires into fencing is very effective at deterring bears. Electric fences should be composed of 9 wires and begin approximately 4 inches from the ground (Dohner, J. V., 2017). "Range riding" is another potential alternative to providing security to free-ranging livestock. Deceased cattle and livestock also serve as an attractant for grizzly bears. It is important for commercial livestock owners and operators to regularly remove or relocate any carcasses from areas containing "active" healthy livestock, to reduce the risk of depredation. In eligible counties within Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming, Defenders of Wildlife will compensate 50% of the cost for electric fencing to prevent grizzly bear access to livestock, attractants (garbage, orchards, beehives).
One important piece of information: notice on the map (Fig.1) the location of mortalities. During 2012-2016, 19 of 22 mortalities related to commercial livestock grazing on federal lands were located within a 15-mile radius of one another (near Wind River Range). A possible management consideration going into the future would be providing incentives for commercial livestock owners and agricultural operations who take precautionary and recommended measures to secure livestock and livestock attractants (grain, feed, etc.)
Monitoring grizzly mortality and its origins are extremely important. Once a threatened species, protected under the endangered species act enforced by US Fish and Wildlife, killing a grizzly bear was prosecutable under federal law. In instances as these, US Fish and Wildlife was the responsible agency in investigating and prosecuting perpetrators responsible for unnecessary grizzly bear mortality. Still, post-delisting from these protections, state wildlife agencies such as Wyoming Game & Fish, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and Idaho Fish and Game are now the responsible agencies for enforcing incidental or illegal harvest outside of the current proposed hunting period.
---Dohner, J. V. (2017). The Encyclopedia of Animal Predators: Protect Your Livestock, Poultry, and Pets; Identify the Tracks and Signs of More Than 30 Predators; Learn about Each Predator's Traits and Behaviors. Storey Publishing.
---Haroldson, M.A., Dickinson, C., Bjornlie, D.D. (2015). Bear Monitoring and Population Trend. Pages 5-11 in F.T. van Manen, M.A. Haroldson, and S.C. Soileau, editors. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, 2014. U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
---Grizzly Bear Habitat Modeling Team. (2017). 2016 Grizzly Bear Habitat Monitoring Report. Appendix A. Pages 95–117 in F. T. van Manen, M. A. Haroldson, and B. E. Karabensh, editors. Yellowstone grizzly bear investigations: annual report of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team, 2016. U.S. Geological Survey, Bozeman, Montana, USA.
Tyler Brasington is a native born and raised Pennsylvanian, yet proud current Wisconsin resident. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a B.S. in Environmental Science. Currently, Tyler is pursuing his masters in Natural Resources with the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. He has worked in Yellowstone National Park under the guidance and supervision of Dr. George Clokey and Dr. Jim Halfpenny.
Disclaimer: The information and views expressed on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Interior, US Geological Survey, National Park Service or the United States Government.
The Greater Yellowstone Grizzly Project
© 2021 Tyler Brasington
All rights reserved. No portion of this website may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher, or appropriate authors, except as permitted by U.S. copyright law.
For permissions contact: